A UF/IFAS research team is studying the vanilla bean in an effort to bring the lucrative crop of vanilla to The Sunshine State.

Vanilla is a lucrative crop that could potentially come to Florida if a team of researchers with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) are successful. According to a Growing Produce article, the UF/IFAS team mapped the vanilla genome and constructed a “draft genome” of vanilla DNA in preparation for research into growing the crop for Florida growers. See the details of the efforts—and vanilla’s value as an alternative crop—below.

Vanilla and Florida Growers

Vanilla bean is an in-demand crop that is mainly grown in Madagascar; the island is responsible for 80 percent of the world’s vanilla crop, according to the article. Currently, the U.S. is the world’s largest importer of vanilla bean for vanilla extract. However, recent factors—like high demand, complicated logistics, extreme weather, pollination issues, and more—have caused vanilla prices to soar recently.

Researchers are looking into which varieties would do well in Florida, including hybrids that are not allowed to be usedfor traditional vanilla extract. UF/IFAS scientist Alan Chambers shared that “the identified hybrids could represent a unique branding opportunity if a grower wants to produce something unique in all the world. These hybrids will most likely have distinct aromas and disease resistance.”

Vanilla bean could soon be a lucrative alternative crop for Florida growers.

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