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Group Title: Bulletin. New series
Title: Asparagus growing in Florida
CITATION THUMBNAILS PAGE IMAGE ZOOMABLE
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00014987/00001
 Material Information
Title: Asparagus growing in Florida
Series Title: Bulletin. New series
Physical Description: 14 p. : ill. ; 23 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Stoutamire, Ralph
Florida -- Dept. of Agriculture
Publisher: State of Florida, Dept. of Agriculture
Place of Publication: Tallahassee Fla
Publication Date: 1930
 Subjects
Subject: Asparagus -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
 Notes
Statement of Responsibility: by Ralph Stoutamire.
General Note: "September 1930".
General Note: Cover title.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00014987
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: ltqf - AAA7381
ltuf - AKD9393
oclc - 28571160
alephbibnum - 001962716

Table of Contents
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        Page 2
    Table of Contents
        Page 3
        Page 4
    Main
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
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Full Text





Bulletin No. 36 New Series September, 1930




Asparagus Growing


In Florida t


By
RALPH STOUTAMIRE














State of Florida
Department of Agriculture
NATHAN MAYO, Commissioner
Tallahassee


T. J. APPLEYARD, INC., TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA

LIBRARY
FLORIDA EXPERIMENT STATION
GAINFSV11 IF FI Uoint


























DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Nathan Mayo, Commissioner of Agriculture.................Tallahassee
T. J. Brooks, Assistant Commissioner................................Tallahassee
Phil S. Taylor, Supervising Inspector................................Tallahassee















CONTENTS
Page
Possibilities of the Crop Here .................... 5
1. Food Value............. ............... 5
2. Economic Returns....................... 5
3. Winter Market Demands................. 7
Obstacles to the Crop Here ..................... 7
An Interesting Test............................ 9
Producing Asparagus.......................... 11
Soils ........... ..... ................... 11
V varieties ................................. 11
Spacing .................. ............. 11
Fertilizing ............... ............... 11
Cultivating ............................... 13
Insects .................................. 13
H arvesting ............................... 13
P acking .................. .............. 14
Marketing .............................. 14
Summing Up.................................. 14
Acknowledgments ............................. 14













Asparagus Growing In Florida
By Ralph Stoutamire

THERE is a continual search being made by growers as
well as by scientific men and institutions for new plants
having an economic value. Perhaps such a quest reaches
its height in Florida for with each immigrant coming to the
state there come also plants which were favorites in the former
home. These are tried out, many of them repeatedly. Some
succeed while many fail, largely because of soil, temperature,
humidity and rainfall or other environmental differences.

POSSIBILITIES OF THE CROP HERE
One such plant that has been tried many scores of times is
asparagus (Asparagus officinalis). From a number of angles
this plant seems to offer fair potential possibilities as a truck
crop for Florida. These may be considered as follows:
1. Food Value: As a kitchen-garden vegetable asparagus is
a favorite because of its mild but delectable flavor. The food
value is not so high, since it is mostly water. A number of
analyses show from 92 to 93 percent of water, 2 percent of
protein, and only 0.25 percent of fat. But aside from these,
there is the mineral and vitamin content which should not be
disregarded in evaluating it.
2. Economic Returns: Like most other green vegetables the
money value per acre depends upon supply and demand, yield
per acre and economic production. Below are given the yields
per acre over a period of years in two important asparagus
states, California and Connecticut:
CALIFORNIA CONNECTICUT
Yield per Acre Yield per Acre
Year in Pounds in Pounds
First ............-... ...-- ........ 0 0
Second .............- .... ....... 500 830
Third ..---- ....-- ......... 1,000 2,425
Fourth ........................---...... 2,000 3,832
Fifth ..... ............................ 4,000 4,838
Sixth ..............................-- 4,250 5,375
Seventh ..............--............... 4,500 5,259
Eighth .......................---- ...... 5,000
Ninth ..--.....-............------.......-------....... 5,000
Tenth .----.........-.....-..-..--.--------....... 4,750
Eleventh .............................. 4,500

These yields are somewhat above the average for most areas;
in fact, the Connecticut figures are nearly double the usual
yields for that area.









6 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE


. L. Mj= -


Fig. 1. Washington asparagus photographed in midsummer, growing on
very poor Norfolk sandy soil. (Photo by courtesy Clemson Agri. College.)


Fig. 2. Asparagus growing in a variety test in South Carolina on a very
light sandy soil. (Photo by courtesy of Clemson Agri. College.)








ASPARAGUS GROWING IN FLORIDA 7

There are at least two potential advantages that Florida
has in this connection: First, production when there is no
competition from other areas. Second, economic production.
The latter point will be considered later. Figure 3 shows the
percentages of weekly carlot shipments of asparagus for the
United States for the 1925-29 average. With no green aspara-
gus on the market until the first of March, the situation ap-
pears encouraging for Florida, if the plant can be produced
here economically.
3. Winter Market Demands: The price of green asparagus
on the earliest market during the last few years has been
around $4 per crate of 30 pounds. There is a strong demand
for asparagus of high quality. The bulk of the California
product, however, is marketed in cans, and that state furnishes
about 63 percent of all the asparagus grown in the United
States.
OBSTACLES TO THE CROP HERE
Now the important question is this: Why has this crop thus
far failed to become of commercial importance in Florida?
When presented with this question, M. R. Ensign, assistant
horticulturist of the Florida Experiment Station, attempted
to answer it on the basis of adverse environmental relations,
particularly temperature. He pointed out that the asparagus
plant is a native of the north temperate regions of Europe
where cold weather persists during certain months. Cold
weather induces dormancy and maintains it for several months.
With the inception of growth following each rest period, new
crowns are produced which give rise to the current year's
crop of tips.
Even in South Carolina where considerable asparagus is
grown profitably, the mean temperature during November,
December, January and February is evidently enough below
that existing in Florida to force dormancy in the former area.
Likewise, temperature records for Imperial, California, show
rather consistently cold nights which would not permit of
asparagus growth during one or two months of the year.
In Florida the temperature is normally mild, punctuated
only occasionally by freezing weather which lasts -but a few
days. Asparagus tops are killed by frost but upon the resump-
tion of warm days new growth begins. Thus in the course of
a year in this state tops may be killed back two or three
times. Each time new shoots are put forth, it means that its
reserve food is depleted; and then, too, new crowns are formed
that lack strength and vigor.
The experience of those who have tried asparagus produc-
tion bear out this Experiment Station man's idea, for after







PeceCnt







6 10


4



/ 1 4 5 6 .8 i/o / 1, 1 14-S 15" / 1 I 8
/a rch/ April /va q June
Weeks iln shipping sce sort
Fig. 3. Showing the percentage of the asparagus crop (green) marketed at weekly Intervals in the United States. The graph
shows that the whole shipping season does not extend over more than 20 weeks and the fifth week is the peak of the supply.
(After California Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 487.)








ASPARAGUS GROWING-IN FLORIDA


the first year or two the shoots become very spindling, woody
and unmarketable. In the northern and western parts of
Florida some few farmers have been able to maintain a bed
in fair production for three or four years.
AN INTERESTING TEST
At present considerable interest attaches to a planting of
about 275 acres in the vicinity of Canal Point in the muck
soil of the Everglades. This is the third trial of any conse-
quence in that area. In May, 1928, approximately 40 acres
were planted to two-year-old asparagus roots shipped from the
Imperial Valley in California. Just prior to the September,
1928, storm, these plants had made a most luxuriant growth.
New and vigorous crowns had been formed in four months
from the time of planting and from these were springing up
large succulent shoots. Growers who were familiar with the
asparagus business in various parts of the United States
claimed that they had never seen such remarkable plant re-
sponse. Everything pointed toward the cutting of a profitable
crop during January, February and March of 1929. Flood
waters from Lake Okeechobee cut those prospects short.






A- .. "t: LA I


Fig. 4. Part of a 275-acre asparagus field at Canal Point in the Everglades.
This planting was 15 months old at the time this picture was taken, June 1,
1930. (Photo by courtesy of Florida Experiment Station.)








10 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE


F;g 5. Representative 15-month-old asparagus plant grown in custard apple
muck at Canal Point in the Everglades. One-year-old crowns were planted
in March, 1929. Note the large shoot at the right. There were seven healthy
crowns on this plant. (Photo by courtesy of Florida Experiment Station.)

Another planting of 75 acres was made in the same area last
year (1929) by the same parties. A considerable cutting was
made during December, January and February of last winter.
The size of these shoots was enormous and the quality left
nothing to be desired. But apparent success from a financial
standpoint was again snatched away because of high water.
Only about 50 percent of a stand was saved on a five-acre
tract. (See figure 4.)
Those in charge of the project say that lack of water control
has already cost them many thousands of dollars in this one
venture and that it is the most serious barrier to successful
asparagus production in the Everglades. However, this re-
mains to be seen, though the venture does seem to offer en-
couragement.
The 275 acres now growing have been successfully carried
over a period of excessive rainfall so far by means of a system
of dykes and pumps. Figure 4 shows one of these fields when
the water in the West Palm Beach canal was so high it was
flowing into Lake Okeechobee rather than out.








ASPARAGUS GROWING IN FLORIDA 11

One thing has been quite definitely determined and that is,
the plants will not go dormant on account of natural means.
There is not sufficient cold, for instance, to induce dormancy;
and repeated trials by cutting, bending or breaking of the fern
have resulted in no success. It seems, therefore, that what
shoots are cut must be taken from the growing plant.
The growth of the plants under soil, temperature and
moisture conditions prevailing in this area is so luxuriant that
new crowns are produced in abundance and new shoots are put
out very rapidly. Figure 5 shows clearly the remarkable
growth produced in 15 months from second- or third-grade
one-year-old crowns. There were seven new crowns on the
plant shown.
PRODUCING ASPARAGUS
From the experience of those who have pioneered in aspara-
gus growing in Florida, there are several points worth noting,
from a cultural standpoint.
Soils: The better type of muck soil, that is the "custard
apple," seems to provide satisfactory soil conditions for as-
paragus growth, where there is dependable water control.
Growth is rapid and considerable cutting may be done the
first year after planting. Quality is excellent. The use of
the mold in the row and between the rows prior to planting
is very desirable, if not absolutely necessary. Of course,
however, such a soil is not available in all areas of the state
where someone else may desire to experiment with asparagus.
In general, departing from muck, a sandy loamy soil that is
neither too dry nor too wet and that is rich in organic matter
is most suitable for asparagus growing.
Varieties: Only some of the better strains or varieties of the
rust-resistant types should be considered. These include Mary
Washington and Martha Washington, and of these the former
is the better from standpoint of yield.
Spacing: The rows should be from 6 to 8 feet apart and the
plants may be set from 20 to 24 inches apart in the row. This
distance will depend upon the length of time that plantings
may be economically continued.
Fertilizing: No fertilizer is being used at present for as-
paragus in the muck soil of the Everglades. Since growers
elsewhere use considerable fertilizer rich in potash, it would
seem especially applicable to the muck soils since they are
very deficient in potash. However, fertilizer is a tremendous
item on ordinary soil, such as is to be found outside of the
Everglades or similar types of muck. Organic matter should










DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
























I






Fig. 6. Knives used in harvesting
asparagus. These are from 12 to
15 inches long. (Photo by courtesy
of Clemson Agri. College.)


Fig. 7. How asparagus is collected from the field. The wooden trays are
called "lugs". (Photo by courtesy of Clemson Agri. College.)








ASPARAGUS GROWING IN FLORIDA 13

form a major portion of fertilizer for average Florida soils.
Potash should also be abundant.
Cultivating: There is but one object to be attained in culti-
vation of muck and that is to control weeds and grass. This,
however, is apparently quite essential for the control of certain
insects.
Insects: There are two insect pests that may be a menace to
a crop: First, the striped cucumber beetle; second, a "six-
point" mite. In case the ditch banks adjacent to the aspara-
gus fields are kept clean and the grass and weeds allowed to
stand in the asparagus rows, then some damage results, as the
insects are forced to come to the asparagus. If the reverse
conditions obtain, the insects seem to prefer the native growth
on the ditches, and practically leave asparagus unmolested.
Harvesting: Edible shoots must be taken from the growing
fern. The yield per plant will probably not be as great as
where plants have been previously dormant. Keep the shoots
gathered regularly; do not let them toughen before cutting.


Fig. 8. Type of crate used by South Carolina asparagus growers. (Photo
by courtesy of Clemson Agri. College.)








DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE


Packing: The usual methods of bunching in 2-1/2pound
bunches and the use of a crate such as used in the Carolinas
seem satisfactory. See figures 7 and 8. The crate is pyrami-
dal in shape, measuring 91/2 inches at the top and 11 inches
at the bottom. It is 10% inches high and 17 13/16 inches long.
It is not advisable to wash asparagus prior to shipping unless
it is extremely dirty.
Marketing: At present the trade centers of Florida seem to
offer very good marketsgfor asparagus. Since no other aspara-
gus areas can produce a crop during the winter months, there
should be no marketing problem here, at least not for several
years.
SUMMING UP
It is evident from the foregoing that asparagus production
in Florida from a commercial standpoint is not an established
fact. Moreover, experience and experiments show clearly that
the crop is not well adapted to Florida's climatic conditions.
In case it succeeds in the Everglades, commercially, it will be
under very unusual conditions. The extraordinary luxury
which characterizes most plant growth in the custard-apple
muck may give the necessary punch to overcome the evident
handicaps and make success out of what has always been
failure. And outside the Everglades it is impossible to en-
courage more than experimenting with asparagus. Stake your
effort on the known and proved thing, unless you have passed
into that group of retired wealthy.
Much credit should surely be given to those who are per-
sistently trying to find a way of providing Finriilh with a new
and valuable truck crop. Those who are w.iriling with aspara-
gus in the Everglades are among those d,(:wr'ving credit.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT
Valuable assistance has been given the author in preparing
this bulletin by Professors M. R. Ensign, assistant horticul-
turist, and W. E. Stokes, agronomist, of the Florida Experi-
ment Station. The former, especially, has cooperated in ob-
taining data. He also read and criticised the manuscript.
Professor Stokes assisted in securing photographs.




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