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Satsuma: a New (Old) Alternative Crop for North Florida

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A Two Year Old Satsuma Grove Near Marianna, Florida around 1920
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/156264

 

North Florida, specifically Jackson County, according to citrus industry historians was once known as the ‘Satsuma Capital of the World.” During it’s peak, there were more than 3000 total acres dedicated to Satsuma production in the Florida Panhandle alone.  While satsumas are the most cold tolerant cultivar of citrus, with mature dormant trees surviving temperatures as low at 14 degrees F, three major freezes including a particularly brutal one in 1935 virtually eliminated all citrus in this region of the state and country, and by 1980 there were no commercial Satsuma groves in this area of the state.

That all began to change though in the 1990’s, with new plantings of Satsuma beginning to be established in North Florida and throughout other areas of the gulf south. The key to this seems to have been driven by the advancement in freeze protection through methods like in-tree microsprinklers which can protect trees up to a height of approximately five feet, and varietal improvements, advancements made largely in part through research done at the University of Florida and IFAS. This advancement has led to the possibility and promise of bringing back this crop that once dominated the region so many years ago.

While there are several rootstocks used in growing citrus, trifoliate orange is the most commonly used in this area where maximum cold tolerance is a must. This rootstock grows well in fertile clay to loamy soils and does not develop a deep or wide root system. An added bonus is that it is highly resistant to foot rot, a soil borne fungal disease that can wreak havoc in areas where drainage may be an issue.

The most popular varieties of Satsuma grown in North Florida at this time include:

–       Owari Satsuma: matures October to November. Few, if any, seeds

–       Kimbrough Satsuma: matures October to November, few if any seeds. Produces fruit that is larger than those seen on Owari.

–       ‘Brown Select’ Satsuma: matures October to November (generally two weeks ahead of Owari and Kimbrough)

–       ‘Early St. Ann’ Satsuma: matures late September to October (one of the earliest producing varieties available)

For more information, download the UF/IFAS Fact Sheet on Satsumas.

 

Advancements in cold protection

Advancements in freeze protection through methods like in-tree microsprinklers can protect trees up to a height of approximately five feet.

 

 

PG

Author: Robert Trawick – rob.trawick@ufl.edu

Robert Trawick

Permanent link to this article: http://jackson.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/02/08/satsuma-a-new-old-alternative-crop-for-north-florida/