By Breanna Kendrick
Shinsuke Agehara, assistant professor at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida, is conducting artichoke research. Over the past year, he has been studying how artichokes possibly could be grown profitably in Florida.
“This is the first season testing the artichoke,” said Agehara. “Researchers are seeing more and more potential of growing artichokes in Florida. The main advantage of growing in Florida is the high production value. The retail price of an artichoke can be up to five dollars per artichoke.” He says each plant can produce up to five to six artichokes, so each plant has the potential to make a profit.
According to Agehara, the good thing about growing artichokes in Florida is the warm winters. “We can produce in January and February; that’s when the supply of artichokes is the lowest and market price is highest,” he says.
However, the challenging part of the warm winters is that artichokes require chill hours in order to produce buds. “We tested different things and found that the application of plant hormones can artificially aid this flowering process. This is very effective,” said Agehara. “There is a commercial product labeled for artichokes. If the hormone is applied at a specific vegetative growth stage, the plant can initiate the flowering without any chill hours.”
Artichokes are a brand new crop for Florida that nobody is growing commercially yet. Different varieties of artichokes have been tested in Florida, but they didn’t succeed because of the lack of chill hours. Location in Florida is a factor in artichoke production. Agehara is located near Tampa, where chill hours are very limited. Tampa may have 200 chill hours, but this is nowhere close to enough chill hours for most varieties of artichokes.
“We’ve tested six different varieties and found that the variety Imperial Star has the least amount of required chill hours and is the most suitable cultivar for Florida’s climate,” said Agehara. “It is still recommended to use the plant hormone to induce bud formation. With the addition of the hormone application, we can make sure every single plant can produce artichokes, and we can maximize the production.”
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