The first orange trees were planted in Florida in the mid-1500s around St. Augustine. The particular sandy soils and subtropical climates proved to be the
perfect climate for citrus and by the 1800s, Florida growers were farming citrus commercially. Citrus grows best in well-drained and aerated soils. Most of Central and Southwest Florida has excellent sandy mineral soils low in organic matter with good natural fertility for citrus trees to flourish.
The 2020-21 Florida Citrus Production Guide details several soil characteristics affecting soil fertility including pH, organic matter, and cation exchange capacity. Historically most native Florida soils used for citrus plantings had a low pH in the top 6 inches, but at present most have a high pH. This was caused by most irrigation water being too alkaline which raised the soil pH over time, leading to high pH in soils that have been a part of irrigated crop production.
The optimum pH of soil and irrigation water is between 6.0 and 6.5. Florida’s environment seems to work perfectly together to create the best soil pH for citrus. When you account for the ample sunshine and abundant rainfall common throughout the growing seasons too, there’s no doubt Florida’s climate is ideal. Florida produces the best quality grapefruits in the world. Florida-grown grapefruits make up about 60 percent of the total grapefruit supply, as the world’s leading producer.
The subtropical climates of the sunshine state are perfect for producing the largest, juiciest, and sweetest tasting grapefruits. While most oranges grown in Florida are used for making juice, these Florida grapefruits are best enjoyed fresh from November through May. HLB, or citrus greening, has been wreaking havoc on Florida citrus farmers for over a decade now. The resilience and innovations that have been shown from farmers over the years are pivotal in continuing the success of the citrus industry in Florida overall.
Despite this devastating disease, farmers and researchers have worked together to uncover more and better ways to effectively combat HLB. Economical and sustainable options, with more possible breakthroughs coming through research, are giving Florida citrus farmers hope. It wasn’t until the 1800s that Florida groves began commercially farming, more than 300 years after the first citrus was planted here. We believe Florida citrus will be here for at least 300 years after today, too.