Growth Products, Ltd: Horticulture

Strawberry Field Management Is Easier with Growth Products  

June 2017

Binky Graham, the farm manager at Dole Berry Farm, says that the Dole farm is “45 miles away from where everyone thinks strawberries should come from.” The 200-acre plot is south of Peace River, just outside of Zolfo Springs, in the heart of Florida’s Bone Valley. “We’re not the norm,” he explains. “We’re far away from the hustle and bustle.”

Graham, who comes from a Florida farming family, knows the area and the business well. His twin agricultural philosophies are “Take care of the plant and the plant will take care of you,” and “Stay ahead of the game.” Those two philosophies, and his prior experience with Growth Products’ liquid fertilizers and organic soil amendments on turf, lead Graham to try several of Growth Products’ solutions on berries this past season.

Calcium for Good Sizing

Because less-than-optimal levels of calcium often cause small and hard-textured strawberries, Graham keeps close tabs on calcium. He monitors the nutrient’s levels by testing tissue samples on a weekly basis in his on-site lab. When the plants need a boost of calcium, he turns to Cal-Tec 6-0-0 with 9% Calcium Glucoheptonate. The calcium in Cal-Tec is 100% chelated. Once applied as a foliar spray, chelated calcium — unlike non-chelated calcium — is able to rapidly penetrate a leaf's waxy coating and enter into the plant, working to quickly correct deficiencies.

Graham likes the fact that Cal-Tec 6-0-0 can be used as a stand-alone spray or can be tank-mixed with other technical products. But most important, Graham likes the results he sees when using Cal-Tec. “With Cal-Tec, we carried a good size throughout the season,” Graham says. “Usually the berries would have sized off about mid-way through the season and sized off again at the end of the season. But this last season we were able to keep a good size through several hands. That’s a huge benefit.”

Turning to Phosphite in the Midst of Bone Valley

Florida’s “Bone Valley,” where Dole Berry Farm is located, is named for its abundant prehistoric fossils dating to the Pleistocene and Miocene periods. Bone Valley also has the largest natural deposits of phosphate in the United States, and the area has been the source of most of the agricultural phosphate fertilizer used worldwide since the 1880s. Ironically, though, Graham turns to Growth Products “TKO” Phosphite 0-29-26 when his strawberries need a phosphorus boost.

Why? “TKO” Phosphite 0-29-26 contains phosphite, which differs from phosphate in that it has one less oxygen molecule, making it more mobile in plants. “TKO” provides the same benefits as phosphate, and when sprayed on plants its phosphite is quickly absorbed through a plant's leaves, branches, and roots. Once inside a plant, phosphite rapidly corrects deficiencies, and enhances overall plant vigour, root development, berry size.

“I like that “TKO” is a safe, no-burn products that can be tank-mixed with other materials,” Graham says. And with a 0-29-26 formula, “TKO” also quickly corrects any potassium deficiencies and give his berries the extra K needed during flowering, fruiting, and fruit maturation.

The Rest of the Story

To prevent and suppress plant diseases, Graham tank mixes Growth Products’ Companion® Biological Fungicide with traditional fungicides and applies as-needed.

Companion® contains Bacillus subtilis, a beneficial, environmentally friendly bacterium that both attacks disease-causing microbes and improves root growth.

From the Dole Farm in Zolfo Springs, Graham’s lush red strawberries go into clamshell containers and make their way to grocery stores and other retail sellers all over the southeastern U.S. and up into Canada. Indeed, Graham’s twin agricultural philosophies – to take care of the plants and to stay ahead of the game – seem to lead to sweet success