Florida is the leading state for field production of vegetables, including sweet corn, cucumbers, and snap beans, and second for tomato, pepper, watermelon, and strawberry. The Sunshine State also is a leading producer of greenhouse-grown vegetables, including herbs and specialty crops.
While some might be surprised to find Florida among the top greenhouse states, there are several reasons for the success of the the greenhouse industry:
- Florida has the mild and sub-tropical climates that make production in the winter, with low heat input, possible. Production in south Florida is possible with negligible heating costs. Also, much of the year in Florida consists of sunny days, with longer duration than the north part of the country.
- Florida is uniquely situated near many major metropolitan areas, in the Southeastern US and in Florida itself, that provide ready markets for high quality products.
- Third, greenhouse production in Florida benefits from a readily available supply of high-quality water and very good equipment and supply industry. The greenhouse vegetable industry in Florida has grown from 20 to 30 acres in the 1970s to almost 100 acres today. In addition, outdoor hydroponic production has recenly increased to more than 100 acres.
The industry consists of the full spectrum of growers from single greenhouse units to multi-bay operations 10 acres or more in size. The University of Florida/Institute of Food and AgriculturalSciences (UF/IFAS) has provided continuous support for the greenhouse industry from its research and extension greenhouse facility in Live Oak and Gainesville/Citra. A statewide survey conducted in 1991 by UF indicated 66 acres of greenhouse vegetables were produced in Florida. European seedless cucumber and tomatoes represented 96 percent of the total acreage in 1991.
A survey conducted in the same manner in 2001 indicated the total statewide acreage was 95 acres. However, tomato and cucumber represented only one third of the total acreage in 2001. The leading greenhouse vegetable crop as of 2001 was colored bell pepper. Herb production (primarily basil) had increased to nearly 17 acres which was greater than European seedless cucumber and slightly less than tomato (18 acres). Lettuce was produced in seven acres of greenhouses and strawberry in one acre.
The North Florida Research and Education Center - Suwannee Valley near Live Oak if the primary site for hydroponic extension education in the way of field days, workshops, tours, etc.
- Hydroponic/Greenhouse Crops, Explore topics related to the production, marketing and economics of greenhouse and hydroponic crops.
- Virtual Field Day, The Virtual Field Day is a website that allows visitors to see first hand new crops and alternative enterprises.
- The Protected Agriculture Project--Horticulture Sciences Department
For more information on Hydroponic Greenhouse, contact Bob Hochmuth.