Could Vanilla be South Florida's Next Big Crop?
Could vanilla be the next big crop in South Florida? Researchers are looking into the viability of the crop that is currently sourced from countries like Madagascar, which today produces 60-80% of the world’s supply.
Dr. Alan Chambers is one of those researchers. He’s an Assistant Professor at the University of Florida based in Homestead.
Chambers… “We've had the commercial vanilla species in South Florida since the early 1900s, but we've never had a commercial market. And yet we have growers coming to us regularly asking, you know, what's the next big thing? What can I do to maintain my profitability? And what we need are high value, easily recognizable crops like vanilla.”
Chambers is running trials, some of which include growing the vines orchards.
Chambers… “In South Florida, it can be grown in shade houses, which is basically the same screen as you have over your windows. So it's much less expensive than greenhouses. Vanilla does need shade. So we're looking at dense production in shade houses, so long rows of plants. But we're also looking at alternative strategies where you could grow the vanilla vines on say an avocado tree. Now on the same land you're producing avocado as your primary crop and vanilla has your secondary crop.”
The team is also looking at business models for the crop to make sure it is both agronomically and economically viable.