The Florida specialty crop industry is facing many difficulties that range from pest issues to competition from imports. Growers seeking alternative crops may want to consider artichokes. Shinsuke Agehara, an assistant professor at the University of Florida, says artichokes have never been commercially grown in Florida, but they could be a great niche crop.
Agehara believes artichokes are an attractive alternative crop for Florida growers because of their high retail value and health benefits. Retail prices for artichokes can range anywhere between $1.50 and $5. Growers have the chance to increase their profitability with artichokes, which is a great advantage. Moreover, artichokes’ short shelf life makes them great candidates for local markets.
There are a few complications with growing in Florida, however. Agehara says the biggest complication is insufficient chilling opportunity in Florida. Artichokes generally need 200 to 500 hours in temperatures lower than 50 degrees. These chilling hours are critical in order for the artichoke to develop a bud. Unfortunately, with Florida’s warmer and unpredictable winter temperatures, it is difficult to ensure the crop will receive the chilling it needs.
Agehara’s research is focused on developing a viable artichoke production system for Florida growers in hopes that the vegetable can start to be commercially produced in the state.
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