Irrigation Update: Growers Opting for Dual Systems

by BRAD WEIHRAUCH
March 2014

A lot of factors affect a growers’ decision about how and when to irrigate,including cost, the available gallons per minute and required water use permits. Solutions are diverse, as diverse as the growers themselves.

But in recent years, water restrictions and environmental consciousness have led to the increased popularity of low-volume irrigation methods that target the root zone. Instead of sprinkling water over a broad area, the drip methods save water by delivering water, fertilizer, and even insecticides directly to the roots where it can be channeled to the plant’s vascular system.

As a result, a large number of growers have incorporated drip irrigation into their systems. But there’s a huge drawback with drip irrigation: It is ineffective at cold protection, something sprinklers have long excelled at.

So many growers now install a second pipe and valve system, giving them two irrigation systems they can alternate between at will. They can use the drip system to fertilize efficiently and save water when the temperatures are warm. When they need protection from freezes, they can open the valve on their second irrigation system, ensuring they have the cold protection they need to preserve their crops.

Citrus Update: How to Survive in the NEW Citrus Industry

by BRAD WEIHRAUCH
February 2014

Florida’s citrus industry has survived hurricanes and canker, freezes and nematodes. Yet, nothing has been as challenging as citrus greening, also known as Huanglongbing (HLB).

Since the disease snuck into the state in 2005, growers have invested $70 million in private funds to eradicate it. They have had some success in controlling the Asian psyllid that spreads it, yet citrus trees are dying. The industry is in peril.

We may feel like complaining. We may worry about the future. But what we need to do is decide if we are in or out of this business. If we decide to stay, we can’t play by the old rules.

Don’t expect your trees to produce for 50 years like they did before greening. Trees aren’t living that long. Equipment doesn’t last as long as it used to, fuel costs are higher, and chemical costs are, frankly, out of control. Your investment costs will fluctuate. Don’t depend on buying trees at the last minute. Citrus nurseries are booked; reset trees are scarce.

But know that many groves in South Florida, where HLB originally was discovered in this state, are stabilizing. Production levels at some groves are increasing.

So if you’re in this new citrus industry, don’t expect to “ride the ridge” like you did in prior years. Be involved in your grove and daily operations. Have a positive attitude and communicate with others outside our area about what works— and what doesn’t.

BIO: Brad Weihrauch is a Polk County native. He grew up around a family business of agriculture and customer service. After Winter Haven High School, he went on to complete his education at Polk Community College and Warner Southern. After serving 17 years in customer service for a large retailer, Weihrauch returned to his agriculture roots and founded RWC, an agri-service and management company, in 2002.

Flexibility Is Key When Developing Land-Use Plan

by BRAD WEIHRAUCH
January 2014

Last year we had a lot more calls from property owners who want new ways to use their land. Apparently, landowners are realizing a large-scale upswing in the building market is probably many years away. So they do budgets and projections and approach me— possibly with a plan in hand.

Unfortunately, land-use plans are often based on typical “how to” information that is ideal, instead of real. When it comes to well drilling, any deviation from your expectation can affect your irrigation strategy. And that’s critical to any crop.

Let’s face it. Not all wells perform the same. An eight-inch well on one parcel of land may pump a different amount of water than an eight-inch well nearby. Although an experienced well driller can give you a pretty good idea, that isn’t a guarantee.

So, if you want to make plans— go ahead. Do your budgets and projections. But be prepared to change them all, if need be, because of well water output. I caution you against ordering plants and trees, irrigation and other equipment until you know there’s enough water to do what you want to do. Many times we change the landowners’ plans after the well is dug.

If you’re going to drill a well, be sure to consult your water management district for proper permitting. Verify your well driller’s insurance and license beforehand.

BIO: Brad Weihrauch is a Polk County native. He grew up around a family business of agriculture and customer service. After Winter Haven High School, he went on to complete his education at Polk Community College and Warner Southern. After serving 17 years in customer service for a large retailer, Weihrauch returned to his agriculture roots and founded RWC, an agri-service and management company, in 2002.

It’s Time to Get Ready for Winter Chill

by BRAD WEIHRAUCH
December 2013

As Floridians, it’s tempting to sit back and watch the rest of the country shiver when those artic winds hit. But don’t let our unusually warm fall convince you winter will pass us by. If you haven’t already, now is the time to prepare for a freeze on your farm.

Flush irrigation lines and check micro-jets and sprinklers you’ll be using for frost protection. After sporadic summer use, your lines may be more clogged than you imagine. Be sure to do a thorough cleaning or replace filters that may otherwise contribute to irrigation pressure loss. Then check your irrigation system to be sure it will effectively deliver water to your crops.

Also check your motor and gearhead assembly. If you use electric wells, an electrician should visually inspect wires and control boxes, along with amperage and draw. Growers with engine units need to change oil, check belts, evaluate the battery, service the gearhead, and top off fuel.

Using your time wisely now will pay off later. Preparing properly for those inevitable cold nights will help you battle the cold more effectively— and efficiently—when the need arises.

Citrus Update: Soil Testing May Reveal Cause of Smaller Fruit

by BRAD WEIHRAUCH
November 2013

As citrus harvesting begins, many citrus growers are finding fruit smaller and not as sweet. The trend proves true regardless of the amount of citrus greening, that dreaded disease spread by the Asian psyllid, present in the grove.

Make no mistake. Size and sugar ratios CAN be affected by greening, also known as Huanglongbing or HLB. But it appears there’s more to it than that. It’s possible extra summer rains washed away granular fertilizers prematurely, leading to nutritional deficiencies.

Growers are reporting smaller than average Navel oranges with a lower sugar content, which affects fresh fruit prices and quantities needed to fill a “box.” As a result, it’s important to review your caretaking records and look for anything different that may have caused this. Look at the past and learn what works for the future!

We take soil samples on citrus every six months, or even more frequently when there’s a cause for concern. In our case, our caretaking methods have been consistent, except for the addition of more nutritional and canker sprays.

So if you’re finding fruit quality off this year, consult your caretakers and take soil samples. Work with your harvester to sell your crop in the most advantageous manner.