Industrial Hemp To Replace Orange?

Hemp, Inc. ( OTC PINK : HEMP ) reports Florida legislators are looking to ease restrictions on industrial hemp research. According to the Florida State Senate, house bill 1217 that “authorizes specified universities in state to engage in industrial hemp research projects” has been “pending review of CS under Rule 7.18(c)” since Wednesday of last week. Representative Ralph Massullo, sponsor of the bill, said industrial hemp is a viable crop option for industry-starved rural areas and may “even surpass oranges.” Under the proposed law, “universities could see how Florida’s climate affects the plant and what market there is for the byproducts.” Some Floridians believe industrial hemp could become the next agricultural powerhouse.

Bruce Perlowin, CEO of Hemp, Inc. commented, “Florida has been cautious when it comes to hemp since the government banned it alongside marijuana. This is why we continually educate the public on the difference between hemp and marijuana. Industrial hemp has absolutely no recreational applications. It only has medical and industrial applications. You can’t get high on hemp if you wanted to. It is impossible. While the plants are closely related, hemp has only very small traces of THC.”

The proposed Florida house bill states:

Industrial hemp is a suitable crop for this state, and its production will contribute positively to the future of agriculture in the state. The infrastructure needed to process industrial hemp will increase business opportunities and new jobs in communities throughout the state. As a food crop, industrial hemp seeds and oil produced from the seeds have high nutritional value, including healthy fats and proteins. As a fiber crop, industrial hemp can be used in themanufacture of products such as clothing, building supplies, and animal bedding.

The orange is iconic of Florida, however, the citrus crop has been suffering from “citrus greening” since the disease was found in the south Florida region of Homestead and Florida City back in August, 2005. Last year, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences survey reported citrus growers in Florida said as much as 90 percent of their acreage and 80 percent of their trees were infected by the deadly greening disease, which made a huge dent in the state’s $10.7 billion citrus industry. (Source: Science Daily/ University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences)

The greening disease is a bacterial infection that starves the trees of nutrients and causes damages to the roots. This in turn causes the fruit produced to be too small to juice or sell.

While republican Representative Ben Albritton wants scientists to do five years of research before the state approves commercial growers, Representative Rick Roth believes farmers should not have to wait to start cultivating a more viable crop as industrial hemp. The bill is currently in the House chamber for the first read by the Agriculture and Property Rights Subcommittee.

Industrial hemp can be used for a wide range of products, including fibers, construction, food, paper, insulation materials, textiles, cosmetic products, and beverages, to name a few and is estimated to be used in more than twenty-five thousand products spanning multiple markets (agriculture, textiles, recycling, automotive, electronics, furniture, food/nutrition/beverages, paper, construction materials, personal care and others).

“The industrial hemp industry is here to stay and it’s only going to grow. Florida, in particular, has been trying to slow that evolutionary progress down by not legalizing industrial hemp in the past but it’s like trying to sweep back an incoming tide with a broom. Legislators are again taking action to promote industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity. It will be interesting to see how long they’ll be able to hold back the tide. I suspect it won’t be too much longer,” said Perlowin.

As more states legalize industrial hemp, more opportunities become available for Hemp, Inc. to process the raw hemp. Hemp, Inc.’s commercial, large scale, 70,000 square foot industrial hemp processing facility, on 9 acres of land in Spring Hope, North Carolina is the only one of this magnitude in the entire western hemisphere. The milling portion of Hemp, Inc.’s industrial hemp processing facility has just been completed. Once the shredder/grinder and conveyor (the parts that feed the mill) are installed over the next 2 weeks, full production of the approximate 18 million pounds of Kenaf (the cousin plant to hemp) will begin. Hemp, Inc.’s industrial hemp processing facility is bound to become the mecca of this new clean green agricultural and industrial American revolution.

Aligned with Hemp, Inc.’s Triple Bottom Line approach, Perlowin is exploring the possibilities of developing Hemp Growing Veteran Village Kins Communities in Florida and is actively looking for 1,000+ acres (similar to the 500-acre demonstration community being built in Arizona where Perlowin plans on growing 300 acres of hemp this year) that would consist of smaller lots for Kins Domains (eco-villages). “The eco-villages would also include organic gardens, natural beehives, a pond, a living fence and other elements,” said Perlowin.

From rehabilitation to job creation, Perlowin says this model presents a holistic solution to those individuals that all Americans owe a great debt of gratitude towards… the American veterans. Perlowin expects this model to produce very lucrative revenue for Hemp, Inc., the veterans themselves and the local communities these Kins Communities are built near. “The infrastructure for ‘The Hemp Growing, CBD-Producing, Veteran-Village Kins Community,’ which takes time to build, is already in place in Arizona which I’ve been building for the last 4 years and can be duplicated for Florida,” concluded Perlowin.

CRDF President Discusses Bactericides

CRDF President Discusses Bactericides


Tom Jerkins, president of the Citrus Research and Development Foundation, several years ago led a crowd at Florida Citrus Mutual’s annual meeting in chanting, “We need bactericides now!” The bactericides, which growers hope will significantly reduce HLB impacts on citrus trees, have been available to citrus growers for more than a year now. Most growers reportedly are using them, at least on some blocks.

Jerkins recently was asked his impressions of how the bactericides are working or may work against HLB. “In terms of perfect data and perfect representations and really great conclusions, not quite yet,” he says. “Anecdotally, I believe many in the industry believe that there is some improvement.”

 Jerkins says data from the registrants of the bactericides indicates that over time, the products can affect the level of HLB-causing bacteria in the tree. Also over time, he says, the registrants’ data indicates that the products “can improve tree health … maybe to where there’s statistically improvement in yield maybe in the second or third year.”

“The summary of all that is, (it’s) looking like it’s going to be impactful,” Jerkins says. “And the question then becomes, by how much? Does it affect yield or revenues by 5 percent, 10, 15, 20? I don’t know. Those answers will be revealed to us, and then it’s up to growers to see what’s the cost of the impact and will the trees continue to improve in the future over time. We don’t know those things. But I will say unequivocally that we’re extremely thankful to have them at our disposal now so we can use them and see if we can get an economic benefit out of them.”

Bucks Toward BMPs

<!–728x90-crop-fcst-ann–>By Tacy Callies

The names of the organizations and programs that provide funding to Florida citrus growers for best management practices (BMPs) projects — SWFWMD, FARMS, EQIP, etc. — can sound like a big bowl of alphabet soup. But in reality, they represent much more than that and can save growers significant sums of money. Below is a breakdown that summarizes the various available funding sources growers can consider.

If you’re a grower looking for cost-share assistance with BMP projects, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (FDACS) Office of Agricultural Water Policy (OAWP) is a good place to start. The Citrus Grove Renovation/Re-establishment Support Program is funded at $5.5 million. It provides cost-share funding for improvements to irrigation and nutrient management when replanting or re-establishing groves.

Qualifications include the following:

  • History of citrus production since at least 2008
  • Enrollment in the OAWP Citrus BMP program
  • Documentation of purchase of tree seedlings for replanting
  • Must be a minimum of 10 acres
  • Must consist of complete replanting in project blocks
  • Implementation assurance evaluation at end of period, including Mobile Irrigation Lab evaluation
  • Division of Plant Industry Compliance Agreement
  • Practices must be designed and installed to Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) standards and specifications
  • Project must be completed on or before June 30, 2017

Eligible practices and improvements are reimbursed at 75 percent with a $250,000 cap. Engineering and design costs are reimbursed at 100 percent. Project costs can be split with other water management district programs or the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), as long as total combined reimbursement does not exceed 75 percent of eligible project costs.

Examples of cost-share items include stormwater-management improvements and upgrades, irrigation systems/components necessary for replanting, weather stations, soil moisture sensors, nutrient management improvements and more.

In December, the program was expanded to include the replacement of deteriorating irrigation main lines and laterals (transit pipes) when paired with a fully automated system. However, the program expansion is only available for groves in the Northern Everglades Estuary Protection Area, which includes parts of Highlands, Okeechobee, Martin, Polk, Osceola, Orange, Glades, Hendry, Palm Beach, Charlotte, Lee, St. Lucie and Lake counties.

The Facilitating Agricultural Resource Management Systems (FARMS) program is an agricultural cost-share reimbursement program that reduces groundwater withdrawals through conservation and alternative-water-supply BMPs. FARMS is a partnership developed by the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) and FDACS.

Chris Zajac, FARMS program manager for the SWFWMD, says $6 million in cost-share funding is available annually, and the current funding period ends September 30, 2017. “The FARMS program is open year-round, and there is plenty of money available,” he says.

A grower must incur the cost of the project up front before applying for the FARMS funding. Typically, the cost-share funding is at 50 percent, but it can be as high as 75 percent in some areas.

Like most cost-share programs, FARMS is open not only to citrus growers, but to all ag producers. Zajac says a common FARMS project for citrus is tailwater recovery, which he says reduces the amount of potable groundwater use and improves water quality — potentially leading to an increase in yield.

Automation of irrigation systems can also be cost-shared through FARMS. “Electronic controls can save time, money and water,” says Zajac. Weather stations and soil moisture probes are additional items that fall under FARMS.

To be eligible for the program, growers must be in compliance with their water permits.

According to Aaron Keller, press secretary for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, an example of a highly successful FARMS project was completed at Premier Citrus Management, LLC near Arcadia. The project consisted of three reservoirs to collect tailwater and surface water to offset groundwater used for supplemental irrigation over approximately 1,600 acres of citrus. The project resulted in water quantity savings and water quality benefits. Previously, Premier was withdrawing nearly 100 percent of its permitted groundwater quantities for irrigation. The quality of water used in groundwater irrigation was contributing not only to increased stresses on the citrus crop, but on the water quality in the surrounding watershed.

Keller reports that the completed project has exceeded the expectation for a 30 percent reduction in groundwater use. According to Keller, Premier’s Bryan Beswick says not only are the systems working beyond the original expectations, but that the performance is improving over time. Improved irrigation system efficiency has resulted in reduced fuel costs and air-quality impacts. The water-quality improvements have also resulted in slightly improved fruit yields. And according to the SWFWMD, water quality has significantly improved at five sites within the watershed.

The Mini-FARMS program, a spinoff of FARMS, is a cost-share program for ag operations of 100 acres or less that are implementing practices to conserve water and protect water quality within the SWFWMD. Growers can receive 75 percent of their project costs, up to $5,000 per project.

Mini-FARMS projects can include, but are not limited to: soil moisture probes/tensiometers, weather stations with evapotranspiration measurements, water quality and soil pH testing kits, soil and tissue testing, and irrigation pumps, controls, filtration and infrastructure.

To be eligible for Mini-FARMS, growers must be:

  • Actively engaged in agriculture for the last two years
  • In compliance with SWFWMD regulatory requirements
  • Enrolled in the applicable FDACS-approved BMP program

The St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) Agricultural Cost-Share Program assists growers with water conservation and reduction of nutrient runoff.

The application period for the program is once per year, typically beginning in May or June and concluding in August or September. The program has set aside $3 million for 2017, says Suzanne Archer, technical program coordinator – agricultural assistance. Of that figure, she notes that $1.5 million will be available in citrus-producing regions.

Examples of funded citrus projects have included variable-rate fertilizer application and irrigation-system retrofits (from overhead to drip). Other eligible projects include soil moisture and climate sensor telemetry, rainwater harvesting, subirrigation drain tile and tailwater recovery and reuse.

Cost-share could be up to 75 percent, not to exceed $250,000 annually, for the design, construction and implementation costs for approved projects.

The Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) offers an agricultural conservation cost-share program with ongoing enrollment. Darrell Smith, director for the district’s agricultural and environmental projects division, says cost-sharing is generally 75 percent for efficiency upgrades to irrigation systems, fertigation tanks, remote monitoring controls and other projects that increase water efficiency. Funds can be used on projects such as irrigation retrofits, new water-saving technologies and alternative water supplies.

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is offered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s NRCS. It’s a voluntary conservation program for farmers which promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible goals. EQIP offers financial and technical help to install or implement structural and management practices on eligible ag land.

Florida citrus growers can receive cost-share funding from EQIP for irrigation systems, irrigation water management, nutrient management, erosion control, pollinator habitats, agrichemical handling facilities, conservation cover, critical area planting, combustion system improvement, windbreaks/shelterbelts, field borders, filter strips, irrigation reservoirs and integrated pest management.

A grower can receive a maximum $450,000 in EQIP funding, as authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. The cost-share rates vary, but are typically 50 to 75 percent.

Key eligibility requirements include:

  • Established farm records with the Farm Service Agency
  • Adjusted gross income limit
  • Highly Erodible Land/Wetland Conservation compliance
  • If applying as an entity, must have a D-U-N-S Number (unique nine-digit identification number for each physical location of a business) and registration in the System for Award Management
  • Must own or have control of the land for the life of the contract, deed or lease

The application process is continual, although funding selections are typically made once per year.

Genetically engineered citrus virus could be answer for fighting HLB

Tim HeardenCapital Press

Published on April 12, 2017 8:30AM

The USDA is considering issuing permits for a Florida firm to widen its field trials of a genetically modified virus containing defensin proteins from spinach as a tool to make trees resistant to huanglongbing.

A Florida firm’s plans to advance field trials of a genetically engineered virus that could make trees resistant to huanglongbing brings promise of relief from a disease that has devastated the citrus industry.

But both the firm — the Clewiston, Fla.-based Southern Gardens Citrus Nursery — and a California citrus growers’ group caution that the process is still early.

Southern Gardens is seeking permits from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for the environmental release of a modified version of the Citrus tristeza virus (CTV), which was developed by University of Florida researchers.

The virus, which has already undergone limited testing in Florida, has been genetically engineered to use defensin proteins from spinach to manage huanglongbing, according to the Federal Register. Also known as citrus greening disease, huanglongbing can be carried by the Asian citrus psyllid and eventually kills the tree.

“We’re in the concept phase of our research,” said Tim Eyrich, Southern Gardens’ vice president of research and commercialization. “We need to expand acres to be able to look at our technology across more geography.”

APHIS is taking comments through May 10 as it prepares an environmental impact statement on Southern Gardens’ request to be able to commercialize the modified virus, which would be applied to citrus trees by grafting and wouldn’t involve genetically engineering the trees themselves, according to APHIS officials.

First discovered in the United States in 2005, huanglongbing has devastated the citrus industry in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas, causing an average loss of 7,513 jobs per year and costing growers nearly $3 billion in revenue, the University of Florida has estimated.

Huanglongbing has caused a 75 percent decline in Florida’s $9 billion citrus industry and has led to full or partial psyllid quarantines in 15 U.S. states and territories, including California.

The USDA has spent more than $400 million since 2009 to address huanglongbing, including more than $57 million issued through the Citrus Disease Research and Extension Program since 2014.

California’s citrus industry has devoted $15 million toward HLB research and education, including $8 million from the grower-funded California Citrus Research Foundation to construct a biosecurity-level 3 lab near the University of California-Riverside that should be up and running this fall.

While the CTV research is promising, the industry is “a long way from having a silver bullet,” cautions Bob Blakely, vice president of the Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual.

“The whole genetic engineering world is new, and it has its detractors,” Blakely said. “As growers and the citrus industry are just trying to hang on and survive this disease, we’re certainly going to pursue anything that might result in a cure or waay to coexist with the disease in order to save the citrus industry.”

Eyrich agreed.

“There are no silver bullets in the greening game,” he said. “We need to get it on more acres and get a wider geography … It’s research and development.”

One challenge with new rootstocks is that they may not work with every scion or variety of citrus, Blakely said.

“Scientists in laboratories can conceptualize a lot of things they want to do research on,” he said.

With Citrus tristeza, scientists are turning to a genetically engineered version of a virus that has itself killed or ruined millions of trees around the world, according to researchers. Susceptibility to CTV led to a wide-scale abandonment of the sour orange rootstock, which was commonly used in Florida.

Previous trials of the genetically engineered CTV were conducted in confined areas under APHIS’ close supervision, according to the agency. More field trials are underway in Florida to determine the efficacy of spinach defensins within CTV.

While the regulatory review could take a couple of years to complete, industry leaders are hungry for an answer for huanglongbing.

“We’ve been at this for several years now, and we are ready for a breakthrough on any front,” Blakely said. “Millions of dollars have been spent and it continues to be elusive and is still killing trees. We’re ready to start seeing positive results.”

Irrigation Water PH for Citrus

Getting Water pH Correct in the Face of HLB


University of Florida (UF) researcher Kelly Morgan discusses a study of how citrus growers are adjusting irrigation water pH levels, and what pH levels seem to work best. The acid level of citrus irrigation water has become an important consideration since HLB was discovered in Florida groves in 2005.

“Jim Graham (a fellow UF researcher) has been conducting a survey of growers, primarily in the Ridge area but also in the Flatwoods, looking at their acidification processes. We all know that bicarbonates have become an issue now with greening (HLB). The … lack of acidity in the water has become a problem for deep wells where (water is) coming from the limestone aquifer. The bicarbonates are very high, and the pH is high, sometimes as high as 8 or 8.5. That pH needs to come down … And he’s been documenting how growers are doing that (lowering pH) on their own.

“We’ve also conducted some research at two different locations, looking at different amounts of acid being injected into the irrigation systems, as well as sulfur applied to the soil, and looking at how that affects the uptake of nutrients. And we found that if you reduce your pH down to the low 6s or high 5 area, which is what we’ve suggested for decades in citrus that the pH should be, you get the optimum uptake. You get more uptake of nutrients, particularly of phosphorus, calcium, zinc and manganese, than you do at pHs lower than 6 or higher than 7. So that’s where we need to be.

“The only caution is that for soils with high copper, there is a possibility of toxic levels of copper if the soil pH is at 6 or lower. We haven’t seen that with greening, but the situation exists that you could have some copper toxicity.”

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Bactericide Grower Trials for HLB ‘Extremely Variable’

Bactericide Grower Trials for HLB ‘Extremely Variable’

Stephanie Slinksi, Citrus Research and Development Foundation bactericide project manager, discussed grower trials on the use of bactericides for HLB at the Florida Citrus Growers’ Institute in Avon Park on April 4. She summarizes the presentation.

“We have a series of field trials set up throughout Florida to test the efficacy of oxytetracycline and streptomycin just in the grower program,” Slinski says. “So these are very simple field trials to evaluate controls and treatments within grower groves.”

So far, she says, results “have been extremely variable … Some groves are good, some look not so good. I don’t have a conclusion at this time.” In some trials, fruit drop was less and yields were higher in treated groves; in some cases, fruit drop was less and yields were higher in untreated groves. “And I can’t tell you why, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to tell you why,” Slinski says.

“Because these are perennial crops, it is possible that it will take a couple of years to see results,” Slinski adds. “It takes a while for the trees to repair themselves and to take on that healthy appearance and start improving yield and decreasing fruit drop.” Researchers advised growers that bactericides could take a few years to show maximum results when growers were first authorized to use the products in the spring of 2016.

Slinski offered no recommendations regarding bactericides use. “We are just trying to help growers make better decisions for themselves and provide data for them to make these decisions,” she says.

As usual, the annual Florida Citrus Growers’ Institute drew several hundred to the South Florida State College campus. Topics addressed included citrus tree health, Asian citrus psyllid management, post bloom fruit drop, bactericides and food safety. With the exception of Slinski, speakers were with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

UF Evaluates Cold Hardy Citrus

The relatively mild winter temperatures during the last two decades has led to a resurgence of interest in cold hardy citrus in North Florida. Satsumas account for almost all of the new commercial citrus acreage in the Florida Panhandle.

If the next two decades have mild winter temperatures like the last two decades, Florida growers can successfully grow other cold-hardy citrus for the fresh market.

The citrus varieties that ripen before Christmas probably have the best chance for success in North Florida. At the Research Center in Quincy, many citrus species/varieties and numbered selections are under evaluation. The following is a list of the named varieties being evaluated.

Although we have had good crops the last two years, I cannot recommend it for north Florida because of a late (late Jan. thru March) ripening date. In addition, other fresh market citrus offer more potential. There is also a new early ripening Valencia that we have not yet tested. The data in Table 1 reflect fruit that were not quite ripe.

Navel and Red Navel
Navels have performed very well. I would estimate that our 12 year old trees have produced 400+ lbs per tree this winter. Little or no problem with Alternaria or citrus scab diseases. Our young trees also seem to be moderately cold hardy as well. Navel should be under consideration for north Florida. Harvest time can be just before Christmas.

Tango is a seedless Murcott, although many fruit have a few (< 5 seeds per fruit when grown in a mixed block. Tango produces a small but sweet fruit. It is easy to peel. Cold tolerance is moderate. The two disadvantages are a late ripening period (Jan.) and extreme susceptibility to citrus scab.

Nova mandarin was derived from a Clementine x Orlando Tangelo cross. It produces a small-medium sized fruit. Maturation is late January. It appears to be moderately cold hardy. More information is needed.

Early Pride
Early Pride is low seeded Fallglo. It is an early maturing Mandarin hybrid. It produces a high quality, small-to medium-sized fruit with good flavor. It is easy to peel. Unfortunately, it is the least cold hardy (severe damage below 25 to 26 °F) of all the citrus that we have in our collection, and it cannot be recommended for north Florida.

Sugar Belle
Sugar Belle was derived from a Clementine x Minneola Honey Belle cross. This mandarin hybrid is perhaps the most cold hardy of all non-satsumas in our trial. It produces a very attractive, bell-shaped fruit that is very high in sugar. It also is slightly higher in acid than is optimal. Fruit can have quite a few seeds when grown in a mixed block with citrus that can serve as pollinizers. Ripening date is November thru December. Sugar Belle could be considered for north Florida.

Minneola Honey Belle
Minneola is an older cultivar that produces an attractive, medium-large, bell shaped fruit. It is less cold hardy than Sugar Belle and has a later ripening time period (late December). Minneola is very susceptible to Alternaria fungus, and a spray program is required for commercial production.

Xie Shan
Xie Shan is an early ripening satsuma variety that ripens during October. In previous years Xie Shan has produced large, bumpy fruit that were not suitable for marketing. This year they produced a heavy crop (300 pounds/tree) of sweet, moderate-sized fruit. More observations are needed before I can recommend this variety.

Owari is the most popular satsuma variety. It produces a consistent crop of small to medium-sized fruit. Owari and all satsumas are cold hardy down to about 12 to 14°F if the trees are cold acclimated. Ripening date is mid-November. It has performed well on Swingle and trifoliate orange rootstocks.

Brown Select
Brown Select is the satsuma variety that produces the largest tree and fruit size.  It ripens between between Xie Shan and Owari (early November). It has performed well on Swingle and trifoliate orange rootstocks.