Native Wildflower Seed Production in Florida
http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ ( Publisher's URL )
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/IR00001767/00001
 Material Information
Title: Native Wildflower Seed Production in Florida
Physical Description: Fact Sheet
Creator: Norcini, Jeffrey
Publisher: University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences, EDIS
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2006
Acquisition: Collected for University of Florida's Institutional Repository by the UFIR Self-Submittal tool. Submitted by Melanie Mercer.
Publication Status: Published
General Note: "September 2006"
General Note: "ENH1035"
 Record Information
Source Institution: University of Florida Institutional Repository
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the submitter.
System ID: IR00001767:00001


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Growers in Florida are producing seed of native herbaceous annual and perennial wildowers. Not only are these wildowers native but they are derived from naturally occurring populations in Florida. Therefore, they are already adapted to Floridas conditions in meadows, roadsides, natural areas and other noncultivated sites. Why is that important? Wildowers that are native to Florida but are derived from other parts of the country do not necessarily perform well under Floridas environmental conditions, especially in noncultivated sites like those mentioned above. The same applies to many of the showy cultivars of native wildowers. These cultivars, which are often available in retail outlets and seed catalogs, are the result of extensive selection and testing. However, cultivated varieties are typically introduced into the trade based on their performance under garden conditions, not the harsher conditions of Floridas roadsides and meadows.


Floridas wildower seed producers are currently focusing on spring and summer owering species including our state wildower, Coreopsis (tickseed). There are 14 species of Coreopsis in Florida, three of which are in production. Lanceleaf Tickseed (Coreopsis lanceolata) and Goldenmane Tickseed (Coreopsis basalis) ower in the spring. Leavenworths Tickseed (Coreopsis leavenworthii), which is found mainly in Florida, owers in spring and summer in northern Florida but all year round in southern Florida. Other species include the popular Drummonds Phlox (Phlox drummondii), which carpets our roadsides in the spring with mainly pink and purple owers, Blanketower ( Gaillardia pulchella), which thrives in dry sandy soils, and the ever popular Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta ). Growers are beginning to grow fall owering species including Giant Ironweed (Veronia gigantea), Blazing Star (Liatris spp.), Golderod (Solidago spp.), and even some native grasses. Limited amounts of seed of some of these species should be available in 2006. Coreopsis leavenworthiiSpecies Phlox drummondii Rudbeckia hirta


Seed in Florida is being produced in two types of cropping systems. Some growers are producing crops in a traditional eld planting. Most wildowers can be grown this way. Production Practices The other method for wildower seed production is the landscape fabric system. In this system, wildowers are grown in narrow rows between parallel strips of woven landscape fabric to minimize weed problems and facilitate harvesting. Rows are typically 2 to 4 inches wide, although some growers use wider rows. Ripe seed falls to the fabric where it is harvested by vacuum. Since the harvest mostly consists of mature seed, the cleaning process is simpler and less costly than if a crop is harvested by combining as in eld plantings. Yields tend to be greater with the landscape fabric system. Drummond Phlox must be grown in this system because of the manner in which it disperses seed. Other species are being grown with this method as well, especially those species that ower for several months. Traditional eld planting Phlox in rows with landscape fabric


A low-cost option is to harvest a naturally occurring stand of wildowers. The stand should be relatively pure. This would be ideal for those in the bahiagrass seed business who are considering diversifying, and a combine, seed drying and seed cleaning facility are already available. For example, in northern Florida there are many acres of Goldenmane Tickseed growing in elds used for hay or other crops. For a reasonable fee, landowners are usually amenable to having someone harvest the seed. Wildower seed production is ideal for those that already produce cropsfrom agronomic crops to vegetable crops to ornamental crops. In many cases, existing equipment and facilities can be adapted for wildower seed production. Generally, about 10 acres is needed for eld production because the cost for outsourcing combine harvesting is relatively high for fewer acres. For the landscape Facilities and Equipment Needs and Costs LandLandscape fabric systemAnother Production Option Naturally occurring stand of Coreopsis basalisProduction Practices


fabric system, at least one acre is needed. However, when rst starting out, experiment with one to three species on about 1/4 to 1/2 acre in a landscape fabric system. Woven landscape fabric plus landscape staples will cost about $3,000 to $3,500 per acre. Fabric costs have risen sharply over the past few years because fabric prices are tied to oil prices. Select a site in full sun that has welldrained soil. Such a site should be chosen with the goal of minimizing weed growth. The best site would be one with sparse to moderate growth of bahiagrass and few to no broadleaf weeds or nutgrasses. To minimize weed growth, avoid sites where weed growth is dense because there is probably a substantial weed seed bank in the top 2 to 3 inches of soil. Inhibiting germination and growth of weeds at sites that strongly support their presence could be costly or futile. Also avoid sites with a considerable amount of yellow or purple nutgrass (Cyperus esculentus and Cyperus rotundus, respectively). These sedges can spread rapidly, are extremely competitive, and are difcult to eliminate. The only practical option for establishing a large eld planting is to use seed. Land(continued)Facilities and Equipment Needs and Costs


As of spring 2006, most seed cost about $50 to $100 per pound. Fields can be planted with a no-till seed drill. A much less expensive option is a manually operated broadcast spreader. It will take about 45 to 60 minutes to sow seed on one acre. For the landscape fabric system, purchasing transplants (~$800 to $2,100 per 1/4 acre, depending on plant spacing) is much more expensive and time consuming. However, a pre-emergence herbicide can be applied within a few days after transplanting to prevent weed growth while the wildowers become established. The cost for herbicide on a per acre basis will be very low since it is only being applied to narrow rows. If seed is used, plots must be hand weeded since there are no herbicides that can be applied until seedlings are well established. Hand weeding may be necessary for one to several months and could be very labor intensive. The wider the space between strips of fabric, the greater the cost of hand weeding. Seed or transplants of Florida ecotypes of native wildowers can be purchased from the Wildower Seed and Plant Growers Association, Inc., commonly Seed or Transplants?Coreopsis leavenworthii owers in late spring and summer in northern Florida but all year round in southern Florida. Facilities and Equipment Needs and CostsMechanical row seeder


known as the Florida Wildower Seed Co-op. Wherever transplants or seed is purchased, make sure that the original source was from a naturally occurring population in Florida. Obtain documentation from the seller stating that the seed or transplants have been certied as originating in Florida. This documentation will be needed when it is time to certify your seed (see Seed Testing and Certication). The Florida Wildower Seed Co-op sells seed that is certied as such. It is commonly referred to as Source Identied or Yellow Tag seed. This is a critical issue because certied seed commands a higher price. Adequate moisture is critical during owering and while the seed are maturing. Those growing eld crops will need to rely on rain since applying supplemental irrigation is cost prohibitive. However, those using the landscape fabric system can economically irrigate their crops. A drip system (~$300 per acre) is often used. A simpler, less costly irrigation system (~$100) is a set of risers/sprinkler heads attached to old tire rims, concrete blocks, etc., with hose end ttings that allow a garden hose to be attached. Irrigation Facilities and Equipment Needs and CostsIrrigation tubes are buried in rows of soilSeed or Transplants?(continued)


Whichever system is used, include a fertilizer injector ($200 and up) if rows are less than 3 inches wide. Do not drill a new well solely for wildower seed production. Too many years are required to recover the costs of a new well. Growers also need herbicides that selectively kill grasses that might be interfering with crop growth. However, postemergence grass herbicides can be expensive so pre-emergence herbicides should be used to inhibit growth of grass as well as broadleaf weeds. A backpack sprayer will cost $150 and up. Since weeds will be the major pest problem, only one sprayer should be necessary. Do not use an herbicide sprayer to spray any other type of pesticide. A wick applicator for directed applications of nonselective herbicides like glyphosate costs about $20 and up. Fertilization at 10 to 35 pounds of nitrogen per acre can increase yields. For the landscape fabric system, a granular controlled release fertilizer can be used for rows over 3 inches wide. Apply a water-soluble fertilizer through the injection system for rows less than 3 inches wide. Facilities and Equipment Needs and CostsChemicals Irrigation(continued)A fertilizer injector is patched into the irrigation pipe


Harvesting Combine harvesting of eld plots costs about $50 to $75 per acre, but the minimum charge is typically $500. A leaf vacuum for harvesting seed off landscape fabric can cost as little as $110. Vacuums designed to be pulled or mounted on an ATV or garden tractor will cost several hundred dollars. Begin drying the seed the same day it is harvested. A fan will facilitate drying. Alternatively, a drying bin can be constructed for less than $250. The bin is constructed of plywood with a porous false bottom through which warm air is blown. Openings in the false bottom need to be small enough that seed does not fall through. The warm air can be supplied by an old furnace fan. The warm air needs to be less than 100F.DryingVacuum harvester Wood drying binFacilities and Equipment Needs and Costs


For seed cleaning, minimize costs while experimenting with seed production by working with an established seed producer that has seed cleaning equipment. The smallest air-screen cleaner, the work horse of seed cleaning, is about $5,000, plus the costs of screens (~$35 each). The cost for outsourcing seed cleaning varies. Some will charge about $1.00 to $2.00 per pound of seed after it has been cleaned. Others will charge by the hour. Alternatively, travel to a grower with seed cleaning equipment and use it on-site or assist the grower in cleaning your seed. Seed should be at least 90% pure and not contain any more than 1% weed seed; both of these standards are on a weight basis. There is zero tolerance for seed, tubers, rhizomes, or stolons of noxious weed species. Experiment with different seed harvesting, drying, or cleaning methods. Equipment designed specically for wildower seed production is very limited. CleaningFacilities and Equipment Needs and CostsSeed cleaner


Seed must be tested prior to sale. Purity, germination and viability testing costs about $80 to $100 for each wildower seed crop that will be sold. It is best if the viability test is run separately. A viability test is sometimes accepted in lieu of a germination test because of the nature of the wildower seed being produced here in Florida. Some buyers, like the Florida Department of Transportation, might require that the seed be certied as Source Identied, which is also referred to as Yellow Tag. Seed certcation is conducted by the Southern Seed Certication Agency, a joint agency of Florida and Alabama. Certication currently costs $250 per year, regardless of the number of species that were harvested, plus $0.10 per pound of seed to be sold. Seed Testing and CerticationSeed certication tag example


Seed producers can join the Florida Wildower Seed Co-op, a for-prot new generation co-op. Currently, it is only $100 to join as a non-voting Associate Grower. Full membership, which includes voting rights plus shares in the co-op, currently costs $500. Minimum production standards must be met in order to apply for full membership. Growers that are serious about becoming part-time seed producers are strongly encouraged to enroll in the Florida Agricultural Promotional Campaign, also known as Fresh from Florida, for $50. It is a marketing program run by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) that is worth every cent, and then some. Memberships


Existing and potential buyers are those in Florida and in the coastal plains region of the lower south who oversee the purchase of seed and plant materials for: Roadsides Restoring and enhancing Federal and State forests Water Management Districts Phosphate mine reclamation Other buyers include those involved in creating or enhancing natural areas: City, County and State parks Commercial and residential developments Owners of large tracts of landMarkets for Native Wildower Seed


Florida seed growers have proven to be very helpful to each other. They realize that this type of wildower seed has the potential to be very protable based on the demand, and recognize that the path to success is to continue to cooperate. Contacts:Where Can I Get Help? Wildower Seed and Plant Growers Association, Inc. PO Box 776 Crescent City, Florida 32112 (352) 988-8117 Email: businessmanager@ oridawildowers.com www.oridawildowers.com Research and extension publications: http://nfrec.ifas.u.edu/ norcini/publications.htm Marketing and development information: Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services www.Florida-Agriculture.com (850) 488-4132


Becoming a Wildower Seed ProducerAnd nally, if you decide to become a wildower seed producer: 1. Keep your day job. 2. Start small, regardless of farming experience. 3. Be prepared to invest a lot of sweat equity. *Disclaimer: The Florida wildower industry is a young but growing industry. There is good to excellent prot potential over the long term and broad-based public/private support and demand for wildowers and this type of seed. As with any new business, it could take up to 5 years to become protable. This is dependent on whether youre diversifying an existing farm operation or a landowner starting from scratch. Since the industry is new to Florida, there is much to be learned about the most efcient methods of production and marketing.


Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Charles H. Bronson, Commissioner Written by: Jeff Norcini, University of Florida/IFAS Designed by: Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services September 2006