Many growers in Florida raise their produce using raised beds, also called plastic mulch. It’s a common sight in The Sunshine State to see strawberries, peppers, watermelon and more growing in fields of long rows of black plastic. Plastic beds have benefits like reducing weeds, keeping the soil warmer and conserving water and fertilizers, which all saves money. One company teamed up with UF/IFAS to find a way to make them even more beneficial and profitable: compact beds.

Traditional Versus Compact Beds

Most plastic beds measure three feet across and six to eight inches high,plastic mulch
but the compact beds are much higher and much more narrow. They measure anywhere from 10 to 12 inches high, and one and a half to two feet across. The design has been proven to produce the same crop yield—if not a higher one—with fewer inputs, saving growers a considerable amount of money.

There are many ways compact beds have been shown to save money for growers. The first is in reduced materials. Compact beds require less materials to create the beds, like the plastic used on the beds and drip tapes used for irrigation. Where growers would traditionally need two drip tapes, one drip tape is enough for compact beds. Growers also save on plastic disposal costs at the end of the harvest year.

Compact beds also require less additional inputs like fumigants and water. One field study saw a savings of 10 percent in fumigant costs, and the yield and quality of the produce was higher. Compact beds also allow growers to fit more plants in per acre, increasing yields and profits even further.

Trials were done mainly with peppers, a high-value vegetable crop, and researchers concluded that pepper growers could save $50 to $300 an acre through using compact beds. It’s a new technique that could well transfer over to significant savings in other fruits and vegetables.

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.

Image courtesy of Lene, also called Manisha.