By Breanna Kendrick
Ali Sarkhosh, assistant professor and Extension specialist at the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida, is conducting research on how well pomegranates will grow in Florida’s climate.
The potential for growing pomegranates profitably in Florida is currently unknown at this time. Research continues on the possibility of pomegranates becoming a new crop produced in Florida. The research is focusing on how well pomegranates will respond to the climate and how the plants will grow in Florida’s soils.
Pomegranates originated in the Mediterranean, where summers are very dry. Florida’s wet season, accompanied by hot weather, are factors that could possibly affect the fruit quality. “However, we are working to see how we can develop a training system that is good for Florida to have the circulation through the canopy to reduce diseases,” said Sarkhosh. “One of the biggest problems is the diseases that develop during the hot/wet season, which reduces the quality of the fruit.”
Sarkhosh believes growers need more information to successfully grow pomegranates in Florida. “We need to improve the knowledge of the grower in regards to the cultural practices,” he said. “The management is totally different from other tree fruit that has been growing in Florida, especially because the pomegranate naturally grows as a bush. In order to grow a pomegranate bush into a tree, this requires a lot of pruning and the right training system. Our research will be focusing on how we can produce high-quality fruit during the wet season. To overcome the issue, training of the grower would be the easiest way to transfer the cultural practices.”
The amount of pomegranates planted in Florida is approximately 100 acres. The potential for growing more pomegranates in Florida exists if the proper production system is put in place. With the right system, Florida growers can produce fruit for a specific production window that is not available anywhere in the United States, according to Sarkhosh.
At the University of Florida, with the help of the Florida Pomegranate Association, pomegranate research is being developed in different areas. Plant pathologists and physiologists are working with varying production systems to make pomegranates a viable and economical tree fruit in Florida.
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