Gary England, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) regional specialized Extension agent and director of the Hastings Agricultural Extension Center, is excited to have an artichoke harvest this year at the Cowpen Branch Road Demonstration and Research Farm in Hastings.
Although many research projects occur at the 50-acre farm, England says he would not call the artichoke plot a research project just yet, but rather a demonstration. “We’re trying to gain some experience with this crop,” he says.
According to England, Shinsuke Agehara, an assistant professor of plant physiology at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, began working on artichokes in Florida several years ago. Agehara began his work with artichokes in Texas before moving to Florida. Agehara reached out to England to have a test plot in Hastings last year. “Hastings has a better chill situation. Artichokes do take a little chill where they’ll set the harvestable product,” England explains.
Last year, England had a small planting of artichokes. However, the winter was unusually warm, and some mistakes were made, so the artichokes did not do well. Since then, work was done to rectify the mistakes.
England is looking forward to the artichoke harvest and already looking ahead to next year. “We hope to expand our trial. I’ll be talking with Dr. Agehara during the off-season, and maybe we’ll do some replicated trials here next year,” he says.
Although the Hastings farm is mostly known for potatoes and cole crops, England says he and the staff have a lot of interest in alternative crops. “That’s become a real emphasis,” he says. He adds that marketing potatoes and some other crops has become increasingly difficult, so that is where the interest in alternative crops come in.