Cabbage for the New Year
Whether or not you believe that eating cabbage on New Years Day will bring financial wealth in the upcoming year, eating cabbage is a great way to support your local agricultural community. Northeast Florida, particularly Flagler and St. Johns Counties, is the principal cabbage-producing region in the State. Flagler County farmers grow a couple thousand acres of cabbage from November through March. According to the latest USDA/NASS Bulletin, 7,900 acres of cabbage were harvested in Florida in 2016 which is down from 8,800 harvested acres in 2014 https://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Florida/Publications/Annual_Statistical_Bulletin/index.php.
Cabbage “plugs” are started in trays and a few months later, the transplants are placed in raised beds using a mechanical transplanter and walk-behind laborers that ensure every plug is properly set. Cabbage matures and is harvested by hand approximately 90 days after transplanting. Hollar & Greene Farms located on Highway 305 is the largest cabbage grower in the County with five different varieites – Rio Grande Red, a Savoy variety ‘Clarissa’, and three green varieties including Bravo, Bronco and Capture. The Savoy variety is easily recognizable with crinkled, ruffly leaves while the red cabbage touts higher nutrient concentrations and antioxidants in the form of anthocyanins.
On December 13, 2018, the Hastings Agriculture Extension Center hosted their annual Cole Crop Field Day with 32 attendees. There were a total of eight researchers that presented their field studies on topics ranging from disease management in cabbage to high precision SmartAg equipment used in specialty crops. Dr. Lincoln Zotarelli, UF Professor in the Horticulture Sciences Department, highlighted results from a multi-year trial involving advanced cabbage production on plasticulture. Plastic allows for higher density plantings with essentially four rows of cabbage on a 40-inch wide bed verses the conventional planting which is one row of cabbage on 40-inch centers. This can increase productivity from 19,000 heads per acre to approximately 26,000 heads per acre.
Results from other trials with cabbage including a fungicide trial, Diamondback moth study and a phosphorus trial were also highlighted. Gary England (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Regional Specialist and Operations Manager at the Hastings Agriculture Extension Center and he can share these results with any growers that may be interested and were not able to attend the 2018 Cole Crop Field Day. An insightful UF EDIS publication on cabbage is attached for anyone interested in diving deeper into the disease and pest management strategies (Elwakil_2016_Pest management in Cabbage).
Although many local farmers are transitioning to alternative crops such as greens, cauliflower, beets and broccoli, cabbage is still a staple here in the Tri-County Agriculture Area.