Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Why Orange Trees are Perfectly at Home in Florida's Soil

Citrus trees are tough to please. They need lots of wind, they’re sensitive to rainfall, and they need sunlight year-round. Only a few states grow a lot of citrus and most of those states only grow in very specific areas. When we look at groves in Florida, though, almost every county below the panhandle grows commercial citrus. What makes Florida so ideal?

The answer: the right soil. Because Florida is a peninsula, much of its surface at one time or another used to be a beach. This is very good for citrus trees because sandy soil makes for good drainage.

Bordered by water on three sides.

Good drainage is vital to the health of the tree.  Citrus trees have shallow roots which only reach down two or three feet. This makes them prone to submersion when it rains. If the roots are regularly submerged for long periods of time, they will rot, killing the tree.

Some sandy Florida soil.

Florida’s soil is so sandy that even though it’s the fifth rainiest state in America, the rain drains fast enough that the roots aren’t damaged.  Citrus trees and their fruit get the benefit of all the moisture without it harming the roots.

Lots of water and great drainage make Florida's oranges the juiciest and sweetest!

The combination of a subtropical climate and unique soil is key to growing the sweetest, juiciest citrus in the world. Many agree that there is no sweeter citrus than those that are ordered fresh from Florida. During Florida’s rainy season, the soil plays a very important role as it saves the trees from drowning. Without the right soil, Florida’s thriving citrus industry would have been stalled by a state filled with nothing but steamy swamps and grumpy gators.

Did someone say oranges?
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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

If Navel Oranges are seedless, How Can They Reproduce?

Seedless Navel Oranges seem like an impossible proposition.  Without seeds, how can we grow new Navel Orange trees?

No seeds in Navels!

The chance mutation we now call the Navel Orange was first discovered in the late 18th century in Bahia, Brazil. Along with its seedless interior, this variety had a secondary, underdeveloped orange inside of the same peel which formed its signature navel shape.

The Navel Orange was an instant hit, but how would the Brazilian farmers plant more of this delicious fruit? Without seeds, it had no way of reproducing on its own.

Bahia, Brazil: Home of the world's original Navel Orange tree.

The answer was surprisingly simple. They cut branches from the Navel Orange tree and attached them to closely-related varieties nearby.  This process is called grafting.

Grafting is the ancient practice of attaching fruitful branches from one tree to the roots of similar trees or “rootstock” by joining them on precisely-cut angles and applying an adhesive to keep them stuck together. The new branch receives nutrients from the rootstock as though it was its own branch and continues to bear fruit. This was first done in China over four thousand years ago and continues more or less unchanged today.

Navel Orange Tree, from graft to grove.

So, to answer our little riddle:  The Navel Orange tree doesn’t need to reproduce.  Growers just continue to graft Navel Orange branches on to new rootstock and these branches continue to grow into delicious Navel Oranges! Whether as a delicious snack or a great gift, Navel Oranges are loved by all. Share the love with someone and order Navel Oranges shipped right to you!

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