Up to 1,000 New Acres of Florida Citrus Going Under Cover

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Drone shot of Dundee citrus under protective screen project

When this citrus under protective screen complex in Polk County, FL, is complete, it will cover nearly 300 acres. And that is only the tip of the iceberg for Dundee Citrus Growers Association in the coming years.

This is the second installment of four special features honoring the 2020 Florida Grower Citrus Achievement Award winner, Steven Callaham, CEO of the Dundee Citrus Growers Association.

How many acres of CUPS will Dundee Citrus Growers Association anticipate having in the near future?

CALLAHAM: We currently have 600 acres of citrus under protective screen (CUPS) either planted, being planted, being developed, or in the engineering phase — all of which will be completed within the next two years. Beyond that, we see more than 1,000 acres of CUPS on our five-year horizon.

What are some of the benefits you have seen so far and expect as the trees grow older?

CALLAHAM: The CUPS trees grow extremely fast — two to three times faster than trees planted outside. Trees in our phase one planting are now 15 months old and stand approximately 6 feet tall. When mature, they will produce three to four times the number of boxes per acre, compared to conventional outside groves. The CUPS method conserves natural resources such as land and water while also providing significant savings on fertilizer and pesticide inputs when compared to an outside grove.

How have the CUPS complex structures been engineered to better withstand hurricane hits?

CALLAHAM: The structures located in the Dundee complexes in Polk County were re-engineered after Hurricane Irma. Careful consideration was given to reinforcing the perimeter walls, modifying the height, and enhancing the aerodynamics to provide more strength and durability to the structure. We are very pleased with our design.

What does the CUPS do for grower and employee morale?

CALLAHAM: The Florida citrus industry has been severely challenged over the past decade. Growers, employees, and customers rarely hear any positive news. That negativity can hurt morale and create a grim outlook for the future of the industry. When we take growers, employees, and customers into our CUPS groves to see the trees, you can see the excitement on their faces as they walk into a structure. They know right then that there will be a very bright and prosperous future to look forward to.

Special thanks to UPL for the sponsoring the Citrus Achievement Award program.