One Florida citrus grower has turned to pongamia as an alternative crop in the face of citrus greening.

Alternative crops are a big deal in the Sunshine State; the state’s tropical climate offers a nearly year-round growing season, plenty of water, and an abundance of sunshine. An abundance of different crops can be successfully grown in Florida, but alternative crops can offer a bigger payoff if growers get in on the ground floor. Citrus greening has left citrus growers looking for alternative crops, and one grower has struck gold with pongamia, according to a Vegetable and Specialty Crop News article. Read the details below.

Details on Pongamia

Pongamia is a legume that is used to produce oil and protein. Similar to soybeans, the oil can be used as a biofuel and the seed cake can be used as livestock feed and biogas.

It is originally from India, Australia, and parts of Asia that have a similar climate that mirrors Florida’s wet and dry seasons. Citrus grower Peter McClure, who is the chief agricultural officer of TerViva, saw the writing on the wall with citrus greening. “We saw that greening was going to be tough to beat, so we looked for alternatives,” McClure said in the article. According to the piece, McClure tried 40 other alternative crops before finding success with pongamia.

Benefits of the legume include:

  • The “transition from a citrus grove to a pongamia orchard is minor in regard to labor and is relatively cost-effective,” according to the article.
  • It requires few chemicals.
  • The trees are very hardy and naturally resistant to many pests and diseases.
  • It fixes nitrogen as it’s a legume.
  • It’s considered drought-tolerant.
  • There is an emerging market.

McClure maintained that the market for pongamia mirrors that of soybeans, with the former being a cheaper and more productive crop than soybeans. “We’re (pongamia growers) just tagging on to that market,” McClure said in the article.

Griffin Fertilizer is committed to helping both growers and ranchers make sound agronomic and economic decisions in order to maximize the health of their grove and pasture. As a full-service custom dry & liquid fertilizer blender and crop protection product distributor, we will continue our mission to further advance Florida agriculture. For questions or concerns about your farm or pasture, contact us and one of our team will be in touch.