March 5, 2019, Plant City, FL: Sustainable agriculture is more than just the new “hip” buzzword. It’s a way of farming that promotes soil health, resists disease pressure, improves water quality and water use efficiency, while at the same time, producing higher fruit quality and yield, and, reduced input costs.
This concept was put to task at Ennis Farms’ strawberry operation in Plant City, FL. For the past two years, Ennis Farms partnered with Performance Nutrition and Guardian Soil Solutions that developed a custom microbial and nutritional management program that promotes soil and plant health leading to premium quality fruit and reduced water usage.
“Our fruit quality has been firmer, better shaped and improved overall,” said Michael Ennis who farms along with his father. “Because of this, we are seeing fewer rejections and are receiving an increased price for our berries.”
The 35-acre farm was able to use about half as much irrigation water per acre. “Our beds are holding moisture much better and as a result, we are seeing decreased disease problems like Botrytis (gray rot) and leaf spot. We’re saving water in our wells and saving a lot of money on equipment, fuel and irrigations system maintenance,” said Ennis.
The trademarked concept of Ecosystem Management is the key to successfully farming in a sustainable manner. At Ennis Farms, the strawberries and the soil are being nourished with nutrients, a wide array of micronutrients and the organic compounds (VOCs, amino acids, etc.) that are diminished by typical cultural practices.
The program designed for Ennis Farms concentrated on the primary elements of sustainability. It contained components leading to better water use efficiency, reduced nutrient runoff, enriching the soil (rather than depleting the nutrient content of the soil) with humates and carbon, reduced the farm’s carbon footprint and produced higher populations of diverse microorganisms.
Partnering with Performance Nutrition and Guardian Soil Solutions has been a positive experience for both the grower and the sustainable agricultural company. “We derive great pleasure when we have the opportunity to work hand-in-glove with a grower like Michael,” said Performance Nutrition’s John Flynn. “Developing and seeing our custom soil management and foliar replenishment programs work week-in and week-out is very rewarding.”