Agriculture plays a major role in the history and economy of the American state of Florida. Florida's relatively warm climate gives it a competitive position for many markets in the Untied States. Florida produces the majority of citrus fruit grown in the United States. Bell peppers, tomatoes, sugarcane, peaches, strawberries, and watermelons are also important crops.

Labor issues have been a part of the industry since colonization with a history of first slave and then exploited labor. The agricultural industry is a major water user in Florida and overall the industry has a significant impact on Florida's environment.



Strawberry field in Florida before 1913

Strawberry is a major fruit crop in Florida.[1][2] Florida is second only to California for strawberry production by volume and by dollars per year[1][2] and the Plant City area grows 34 of America's winter strawberries.[1] The Florida Strawberry Growers Association represents growers here.[3] Strawberry gray mold is economically important.[4] This is the Botrytis Fruit Rot of strawberries caused by Botrytis cinerea.[4] Growers here ship strawberries December to April.[3] The state's Strawberry Festival is held in March every year in Plant City.[5][1] Anthracnose is a common disease of this crop.[6] The University of Florida operates[7] one of the most important strawberry demonstration breeding programs in North America.[8] RosBREED 2 was developed partly from the experience of this program[9] with the need to combine desirable strawberry qualities with resistance, an integral part of the RosBREED program for Rosaceae in America.[8] They adapted[10] Axiom's 90k SNP array to a more economical 35k for genomic selection in the program.[8] Molecular breeding has improved greatly in the few years up to 2020 and the rapid generation cycle of strawberry also helps to speed up breeding.[8] This program bred Phytophthora cactorum root rot resistance into their new cv. 'Florida Beauty',[11][8] and for an even better example, they were able to pyramid together three disease resistance traits, to various Xanthomonas, Phytophthora, and Colletotrichum, into another cultivar.[8] Marker-assisted parental selection (MAPS) and marker-assisted seedling selection (MASS) are now targeting Ca1 for fruit and crown rot, Cg1 for crown rot, Pc2 for root and crown rot, and Xf1 for bacterial angular leaf spot.[8] Molecular breeding is usually suitable for monogenic traits, while polygenics are handled by genome-wide analysis.[8] Genomics proved better than pedigree records for predicting actually results.[8] These results lead the program to combine both genomic and locus-specific testing for their routine breeding.[8] Leaf Spot of Strawberry (Mycosphaerella fragariae/Ramularia tulasnei, Ramularia or Ramularia Leaf Spot) is common here.[12]

cv. 'Camino Real' is unusually vulnerable to Botrytis Fruit Rot in the conditions around the University of Florida's Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Dover.[13] Chandler et al., 2006 finds 'CR' is the worst among several common varieties, although 'Sweet Charlie' can be close.[13] It is possible that the Botrytis problem in 'CR' could be remedied with different fungicide timing.[13]

cv. ' Sweet Charlie ' was developed at the University of Florida.[14] Chandler et al., 2006 finds 'SC' is consistently somewhat susceptible to Botrytis Fruit Rot,[13]

The varieties 'Florida Radiance', 'Strawberry Festival' (not to be confused with the Florida Strawberry Festival), and 'Florida Beauty' are among the most commonly grown here.[15] 'FR' is higher yielding in real producer conditions in the state than 'SF'.[15]

Although disease resistance is an economically important trait in this crop, there is insufficient study of growers' willingness to pay.[9] What little information is available suggests that it is low.[9] Unsurprisingly there is even less interest in resistance on the consumer side, due to lack of understanding.[9]


Peaches have probably been grown here since the 1500s, brought by the Spanish.[16] By the late 1700s an export trade had developed with the mid-Atlantic states, with Baltimore the first hub to distribute Florida peaches into the surrounding region.[16] Similar to the strawberry tool above, a cut-down SNP array for genomic selection has been adapted[10] by the University of Florida for peaches.[8]

Peach is a growing crop due to citrus greening.[17][18] Florida produces far less than the leading state, California, but has the advantage of an earlier season than any other in the country.[19] The harvest season runs from late March to late May or early June depending on the year's weather.[19] Due to increasing pest and disease pressure with increasing rainfall here, yield declines rapidly in the summer and profitable harvest ends for the year.[19] This – combined with competitor states coming into season – means that late-bearing cultivars are commercially nonviable here.[19]


Citrus groves in Florida seen from the Bok Tower Gardens in 2008

Although citrus cultivation began there in the 1500s, commercial scale production was only attempted in the 1920s.[16] At first this went badly due to severe pest and disease epidemics, which were themselves due to poor understanding of the local climate and terrain.[16] The kumquat was introduced to Florida in the late 1800s. The most common variety of kumquat planted in Florida is the Nagami.[20] Dade City hosts the annual Kumquat Festival.[21] The festival features kumquat pie, a specialty of Pasco County where Dade City is located.[22]

As of 2019 oranges make up 93% of Florida's citrus production, followed by 6% for grapefruit, and 1% for tangerines and tangelos.[23] For 2018, 10.9% of all cash receipts were citruses.[24] In 2006, 67% of all citrus, 74% of oranges, 58% of tangerines, and 54% of grapefruit were grown in Florida. About 95% of commercial orange production in the state is destined for processing (mostly as orange juice, the official state beverage). The top 5 citrus-producing counties, according to data in 2019, was "DeSoto (12.8 million boxes), Polk (12.5 million boxes), Highlands (10.8 million boxes), Hendry (10.5 million boxes) and Hardee (8.16 million boxes)", according to Florida Agriculture by the Numbers. Together they contribute 71% of Florida's total citrus production. The Central produced the most citrus, followed by the Western area and the Southern areas.[23] International citrus fresh fruit exports totaled to "2.05 million 4/5 bushel cartons", and Japan received the majority of the grapefruit exports. Canada received most of Florida's orange and tangerine exports. Florida Agriculture by the Numbers reports "4.70 million gallons of Frozen Concentrated Orange Juice (FCOJ), and 0.38 million gallons of Frozen Concentrated Grapefruit Juice (FCGJ) was exported in the 2018–2019 season".[23]


Tomato picking in Princeton, Florida in 1957

Main article: Tomato production in Florida

The state is #1 in fresh-market tomatoes.[25][26] Harvest is almost year-round, from October to June.[25] The highest temperatures of the summer from July to September end profitable yield and even the heat of June and October limit productivity, such that April to May and November to January are the largest harvests of the year.[25]


Main article: Mango production in Florida

Florida is the largest mango producer in the United States.[27] The first commercial mango orchard in Florida was planted in 1833.[28] In the 20th century Mango growing and breeding was a hobby of wealthy men in South Florida including Henry Ford and Thomas Edison.[29]


Sugarcane growing near Tampa, Florida ca. 1920

The state is the country's largest producer of sugarcane, which is primarily processed into sugar.[30]

The sugarcane industry in Florida began in the 1760s during the British colonial period.[31] Florida's sugarcane production expanded significantly after the United States ceased importing sugar from Cuba in 1960.[32]

Most of the sugarcane is produced in organic soils along the southern and southeastern shore of Lake Okeechobee in Southern Florida, where the growing season is long and winters are generally warm.[32]

Other crops

Burquest and Stockbridge Company employees loading celery crates onto trucks near Sarasota, Florida in 1945

The largest farm category by sales in Florida is the $2.3 billion ornamental industry, which includes nursery, greenhouse, flower, and sod products.[33]

Other products include tomatoes and celery. The state is the largest producer of sweet corn and green beans for the U.S.[34]

The state has a near monopoly on saw palmetto berries, an alternative medicine said to treat prostate and urinary disorders.[35]

Much of the okra in the country is grown here, especially around Dade.[36][37] Okra is grown throughout the state to some degree however and so okra is available ten months of the year here.[36] Yields range from less than 18,000 pounds per acre (20,000 kg/ha) to over 30,000 pounds per acre (34,000 kg/ha).[36] Wholesale prices can go as high as $18/bushel which is $0.60 per pound ($1.3/kg).[36] The Regional IPM Centers provide integrated pest management plans specifically for the southern part of the state.[36]

California and Florida account for most commercial persimmon production in the United States. The first commercial orchards in Florida were planted in the 1870s and production peaked in the 1990s before declining. Most persimmon orchards in the US are small scale (70% less than 1 acre or 0.5 hectares and 90% less than 5 acres or 2 hectares).[38]

Environmental concerns

The Everglades Agricultural Area is a major center for agriculture. The environmental impact of agriculture, especially water pollution, is a major issue in Florida today.[39][30]


Much of the agricultural labor from Florida's early colonial through the Civil War was done by slaves.[40]

The Florida tomato industry has historically relied on migrant labor.[41] Exploitation of that labor was widespread with the town of Immokalee, Florida being "known as ground zero for modern day slavery."[42]

Pests and diseases

Gray Mold

Gray Mold is caused by Botrytis cinerea. Botrytis Fruit Rot due to this fungus is one of the most important strawberry diseases – and post-harvest diseases – here, as it is everywhere.[4] (See also § Strawberry.) Occasionally yield losses can be over 50% in the state.[4] Conditions favorable to the disease occur here from November to March, and its most severe destruction is in February and March.[4] When making fungicide decisions about timing and ingredients, the UFl Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences recommends the Strawberry Advisory System[43] for a decision support system.[4] Prophylactic fungicide dips don't work for this pathogen and so many in-season sprays are the only option.[4] UFL IFAS recommends thiram, captan, captan + fexhexamid, penthiopyrad, isofetamid, fluxapyroxad + pyraclostrobin, fluopyram + pyrimethanil, pydiflumetofen + fludioxonil, and cyprodinil + fludioxonil.[4] There is a massive problem with multiple fungicide resistance in this disease here, with most B. c. isolates showing two to six resistances[4] and three being most common, with only fludioxonil providing any protection in many populations.[44] Multiresistant B. c. caused a disastrous crop loss event across the state in 2012.[44] Resistance management is thus extremely important and monotonous fungicide use is not an option.[4] Resistance management is mostly incorporated into the Strawberry Advisory System already.[4] Methyl bromide was an important part of production and its ban has greatly increased costs, both for soil fumigation with alternatives, and because further applications must be made during the season and post-harvest to make up for inadequate efficacy of these alternatives.[2]

Other pests and diseases

Plant infested with citrus canker

Citrus canker (Xanthomonas axonopodis) continues to be an issue of concern.[16] From 1997 to 2013, the growing of citrus trees has declined 25%, from 600,000 to 450,000 acres (240,000 to 180,000 ha). Citrus greening disease is incurable. A study states that it has caused the loss of $4.5 billion between 2006 and 2012. As of 2014, it was the major agricultural concern.[45] Results of the annual Commercial Citrus Inventory showed that citrus acreage in 2019 was down 4% than 2018 and was the lowest in a series that began in 1966. There was a net loss of 16,411 acres during the 2018–2019 season and was twice what was lost in the previous season. Of a survey conducted of 25 published counties, 24 of them, or 96% recorded decrease in acreage. Only Sarasota County showed an increase in acreage during the 2018–2019 season.[23] Other major citrus concerns include citrus root weevil Diaprepes abbreviatus, the citrus leafminer Phyllocnistis citrella, and the Asian citrus psyllid Diaphorina citri.[16]: 377 

Tomato, bell pepper, and strawberry were the largest users of methyl bromide and so the phase out has required hard choices for alternative soil fumigants.[46] A methyl iodide/chloropicrin mix has served well, producing equal performance to MB in pepper.[46]

The Spotted Wing Drosophila (Drosophila suzukii) is a threat to blueberry, peach, cherry, strawberry, raspberry, and blackberry here.[16] D. suzukii was introduced to much of North America from its initial introduction to California, including to Florida.[16]

Strawberry anthracnose is commonly caused by Colletotrichum acutatum here.[6] Adaskaveg & Hartin 1997 identify the most common strains on strawberry here.[6]

The Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) is a major pest here.[47] South Florida is one of only two overwintering areas for FAW in North America (the other being South Texas).[47] Thus the entire state – and the south especially – is hard hit every year.[47] Bt crops have been successful against FAW but some Bt resistance is appearing here which is a tremendous threat to productivity.[47] Huang et al., 2014 find a high degree of Cry1F resistance (Cry1F-r) in the south of the state, probably the result of resistant FAW migration from Puerto Rico.[47] This Cry1F-resistant population has low cross-resistance with Cry1A.105 but none with Cry2Ab2 or Vip3A.[47] Overall, several studies find Cry1F-r is common here.[48] Banerjee et al., 2017 does not find the Cry1F-r allele SfABCC2mut in Florida in 2012, 2014, or 2016.[48] Because this allele is very common in Puerto Rico, they fail to support any substantial immigration of FAW from PR to Florida, contrary to earlier studies including Huang above.[48]

Ceratitis capitata, male

The Medfly (Ceratitis capitata) was introduced here and to California and Texas.[49]: 79 [50] Due to its wide host range it was immediately an important priority for the states and for USDA APHIS.[49]: 79 [50] Using sterile insect technique it was successfully eradicated from North America entirely.[49]: 79 [50]

Tomato Bacterial Spot is caused by Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. vesicatoria. Tomato Bacterial Speck is produced by Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato. Both are economically significant in fresh-market tomato here.[51]

The Silverleaf Whitefly (SLW, Bemisia tabaci strain B) was first noticed here in 1986.[52] Previously only the A strain had been known here, and was only occasionally a crop pest.[52] Suddenly in 1986 SLW was a major crop pest and major vector of crop diseases.[52] Since then Strain A has disappeared from the United States entirely and Strain B has continued to be a widespread problem here.[52]

The Saltmarsh Caterpillar (Estigmene acrea) is a common pest of fruit and vegetable cultivation in Florida.[53]

After arrival in the 1930s in Alabama, the Red Imported Fire Ant (RIFA, Solenopsis invicta) quickly spread to Florida.[54] It is a significant agricultural drag due to its soil disruption, its mound building interfering with field machines, feeding on the plants themselves, and attacks on livestock.[54]


In 2002 peppers and tomatoes were #1 and #2 in dollar value for the state and citrus fruit, especially oranges, were also a major part of the economy.[46] By 2019 tomatoes were #1, oranges #2, and peppers were #3.[55] Of exports, meat is Florida's biggest earner.[55]

Florida was ranked in 2019, "first in the value of production for fresh market bell peppers and tomatoes, as well as grapefruit, oranges, sugarcane, and watermelons" in the United States according to Florida Agriculture by the Numbers.[56]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Jones, Katie (2022-03-03). "How Plant City became the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World". WTSP. Retrieved 2022-06-03.
  2. ^ a b c Guan, Zhengfei; Wu, Feng; Whidden, Alicia (2020-11-05). "FE1013/FE1013: Florida Strawberry Production Costs and Trends". Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS). Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), UFl. Retrieved 2022-06-03.
  3. ^ a b "Enjoy fresh Florida strawberries, available December through April!". Florida Strawberry Growers Association. 2018-03-12. Retrieved 2022-06-03.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Mertely, J.C.; Oliveira, M. S.; Peres, N. A. (2022-02-15). "PP230/PP152: Botrytis Fruit Rot or Gray Mold of Strawberry". Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS). Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), UFl. Retrieved 2022-06-03.
  5. ^ "Special Days & Discounts". Florida Strawberry Festival. 2017-11-08. Retrieved 2022-06-03.
  6. ^ a b c Dowling, Madeline; Peres, Natalia; Villani, Sara; Schnabel, Guido (2020). "Managing Colletotrichum on Fruit Crops: A "Complex" Challenge". Plant Disease. 104 (9). American Phytopathological Society: 2301–2316. doi:10.1094/pdis-11-19-2378-fe. ISSN 0191-2917. PMID 32689886. S2CID 219479598.
  7. ^ "Strawberry - Plant Breeding Program". University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF IFAS). 2022-07-08. Retrieved 2022-07-23.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Iezzoni, Amy F.; McFerson, Jim; Luby, James; Gasic, Ksenija; Whitaker, Vance; Bassil, Nahla; Yue, Chengyan; Gallardo, Karina; McCracken, Vicki; Coe, Michael; Hardner, Craig; Zurn, Jason D.; Hokanson, Stan; van de Weg, Eric; Jung, Sook; Main, Dorrie; da Silva Linge, Cassia; Vanderzande, Stijn; Davis, Thomas M.; Mahoney, Lise L.; Finn, Chad; Peace, Cameron (2020-11-01). "RosBREED: bridging the chasm between discovery and application to enable DNA-informed breeding in rosaceous crops". Horticulture Research. 7 (1). Nature + Nanjing Agricultural University: 177. doi:10.1038/s41438-020-00398-7. ISSN 2662-6810. PMC 7603521. PMID 33328430. S2CID 226217178. ORCIDs: KC 0000-0003-4391-5262. NB 0000-0001-8625-2740. JDZ 0000-0001-8360-486X. EvdW 0000-0002-9443-5974. TMD
  9. ^ a b c d Li, Zongyu; Gallardo, R. Karina; McCracken, Vicki; Yue, Chengyan; Whitaker, Vance; McFerson, James R.; Li, Zongyu; Gallardo, R. Karina; McCracken, Vicki; Yue, Chengyan; Whitaker, Vance; McFerson, James R. (2020), "Grower Willingness to Pay for Fruit Quality versus Plant Disease Resistance and Welfare Implications: The Case of Florida Strawberry", Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Western Agricultural Economics Association, doi:10.22004/AG.ECON.302450
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  11. ^ Whitaker, Vance M.; Osorio, Luis F.; Peres, Natalia A.; Fan, Zhen; Herrington, Mark; Nunes, M. Cecilia do Nascimento; Plotto, Anne; Sims, Charles A. (2017). "'Florida Beauty' Strawberry". HortScience. 52 (10). American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS): 1443–1447. doi:10.21273/hortsci12281-17. ISSN 0018-5345. S2CID 90693139.
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  14. ^ Hokanson, Stan; Finn, Chad (2000). "Strawberry Cultivar Use in North America". HortTechnology. 10 (1). American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS): 94–106. doi:10.21273/horttech.10.1.94. ISSN 1063-0198. S2CID 73633201.
  15. ^ a b Wu, Feng; Guan, Zhengfei; Whitaker, Vance (2018-04-03). "Florida Strawberry Growers Need More Early Yield to Improve Profitability". EDIS. 2018 (2). University of Florida George A Smathers Libraries. doi:10.32473/edis-fe1032-2017. ISSN 2576-0009.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h Pimentel, David; Peshin, Rajinder, eds. (2014). Integrated Pest Management – Pesticide Problems, Vol.3 (1 ed.). Springer Dordrecht. pp. XXI+474+27 b/w illustrations, 33 colour. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-7796-5. ISBN 978-94-007-7795-8. S2CID 32316692. ISBN 978-94-024-0022-9. ISBN 978-94-007-7796-5.
  17. ^ "Peaches can be profitable in three years: Researcher to growers". Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS). University of Florida. 2022-06-06. Retrieved 2022-06-08.
  18. ^ "FE1016/FE1016: Establishment and Production Costs for Peach Orchards in Florida: Enterprise Budget and Profitability Analysis". Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS). Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), UFl. 2021-02-26. Retrieved 2022-06-08.
  19. ^ a b c d "RFAC018/AC018: Alternative Opportunities for Small Farms: Peach and Nectarine Production Review". Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS). Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), UFl. 2022-05-06. Retrieved 2022-06-08.
  20. ^ Everett, Jenny. "Kumquat: Florida's Other Citrus". Garden and Gun. Retrieved 19 March 2024.
  21. ^ Wronka, Tim. "Kumquat crops down as festival returns Saturday". Bay News. Retrieved 19 March 2024.
  22. ^ Filips, Sara. "Kumquat Growers to host 2-day open house event ahead of festival". WFLA. Retrieved 19 March 2024.
  23. ^ a b c d Hudson, Mark (2019). "Florida Agriculture By The Numbers-2019" (PDF). Florida Agriculture by the Numbers: 23.
  24. ^ Hudson, Mark (2019). "FLORIDA AGRICULTURE BY THE NUMBERS-2019" (PDF). Florida Agriculture by the Numbers: 11.
  25. ^ a b c "FE1027/FE1027: The US Tomato Industry: An Overview of Production and Trade". Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS). Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), University of Florida. 2021-08-30. FE1027. Retrieved 2022-06-28.
  26. ^ "Tomatoes". Agricultural Marketing Resource Center. 2022-06-27. Retrieved 2022-06-28.
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  29. ^ Hughes, Debbie. "Growing mangoes in Southwest Florida". News-Press. Retrieved 15 May 2023.
  30. ^ a b Adno, Michael. "A Fire in the River: Big Sugar and 'Black Snow' in the Everglades". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 21 March 2024.
  31. ^ Mitchell, Scott. "The Sweet History of Sugarcane". Ocala Style. Retrieved 22 March 2024.
  32. ^ a b "Sugar & Sweeteners: Background". United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  33. ^ Doug Mayo (June 28, 2019). "Florida Panhandle Ag Facts from the 2017 Ag Census". Panhandle Agriculture. Archived from the original on July 8, 2019.
  34. ^ "Corn, Green Bean Prices Rise After Florida Freezes". Calorielab. January 1, 2011. Archived from the original on July 7, 2012.
  35. ^ Moore, Mary Helen (October 8, 2018). "Berry poachers at heart of change in harvest rules". Florida Today. Melbourne, Florida. pp. 1A. Retrieved October 9, 2018.
  36. ^ a b c d e "Southern Florida 2005 Okra PMSP". Regional Integrated Pest Management Centers Database. 2022-05-04. Retrieved 2022-06-30.
  37. ^ Aguiar, José L; McGiffen, Milt; Natwick, Eric; Takele, Etaferahu (2011). Okra Production in California. University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR). p. 3. doi:10.3733/ucanr.7210. ISBN 978-1-60107-002-9. 7210.
  38. ^ Sarkhosh, Ali; Andersen, Peter C.; Huff, Dustin M. "JAPANESE PERSIMMON CULTIVARS IN FLORIDA1". University of Florida. Retrieved 10 May 2022.
  39. ^ "Pollutants threaten the Everglades' future". January 5, 2012.
  40. ^ Sellers, Sean; Asbed, Greg (Autumn 2011). "The History and Evolution of Forced Labor in Florida Agriculture". Race/Ethnicity: Multidisciplinary Global Contexts. 5 (1): 29–49.
  41. ^ Jonsson, Patrik. "Trafficking: In Florida's tomato fields, a fight for ethical farm labor grows". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 15 May 2023.
  42. ^ Cohen, Lisa (30 May 2017). "How America's 'ground-zero' for modern slavery was cleaned up by workers' group". CNN. Retrieved 15 May 2023.
  43. ^ "Strawberry Advisory System". AgroClimate. Retrieved 2022-06-03.
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  45. ^ Doering, Christopher (February 5, 2014). "Nelson lauds effect for state, Rubio opposes wide reach". Florida Today. Melbourne, Florida. p. 1A. Retrieved February 5, 2014.
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  52. ^ a b c d "Bemisia tabaci (Gennadius) or Bemisia argentifolii Bellows & Perring". University of Florida Entomology Department. 2002-11-05. Retrieved 2022-07-09.
  53. ^ Capinera, John (April 2016). "saltmarsh caterpillar - Estigmene acrea (Drury)". University of Florida Entomology Department. Retrieved 2022-07-20.
  54. ^ a b "red imported fire ant - Solenopsis invicta". University of Florida Entomology and Nematology Department, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences - (UF/IFAS). 2008-08-18. Retrieved 2022-07-31.
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