A new University of Florida study shows that castor can be grown in Florida again using proper management techniques. Those techniques include spacing plants properly and using harvest aids to defoliate the plant when it matures.
The study says that castor has not been grown in the U.S. since 1972, because the federal government discontinued giving price supports. Growers in the U.S. want to mechanically harvest castor, which is typically hand-picked in other parts of the world, the researchers said. Among other things, the UF/IFAS study evaluated whether the plant would grow too tall for mechanical harvesting machines.
At UF research units in Citra and Jay, scientists tested Brigham and Hale, two types of castor that were bred in an arid part of west Texas near Lubbock in 1970 and 2003, respectively. These cultivars are shorter than castor found in the wild, said Diane Rowland, an associate professor of agronomy at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and Campbell’s faculty adviser.
By spraying the plants with a chemical, Scientists tried to control the growth of them. Even though the crop didn’t respond to the chemicals, it did not grow taller than expected. So it appears these types of castor can be harvested mechanically, she said.
The study came about after a few growers in South Florida who wanted to plant castor asked IFAS administrators for technical advice, Rowland said.
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