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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Why is Indian River Citrus better than other Florida Citrus?

It’s well known that the Oranges and Grapefruit that grow near the Indian River are the absolute best in Florida, but what’s so different about the Indian River area? Why does it produce better fruit?

The answer:  Better Soil.

The composition of Florida soil is ideal for citrus.

In order to grow great citrus in Florida, there are two very important properties that the soil must have:

  1. The soil needs to drain well so that the shallow roots aren’t submerged in water during Florida’s rainy season.  Everyone can probably guess that Florida’s heavy rainfall is great for producing juicy citrus, but few people know that too much rain will actually kill the tree.
  2. There must be plenty of minerals and nutrients in the soil for the trees to grow healthy.

Since Florida is a peninsula, most of the soil throughout the state is very sandy.  This is great for drainage.  The sandy soil rapidly drains away the water after heavy rains.  But sandy soil usually isn’t very nutrient rich.

Florida's sandy soil does a great job draining a high quantity of rainfall.

Sandy soil has a low Cation Exchange Capacity.  This intimidating phrase is just a measure for how well the soil holds on to nutrients.  So sandy soil isn’t enough for growing great citrus in Florida.

At this point, you can probably guess why Indian River citrus is the best in the world… better nutrients!  Much of the soil around indian river is loam soil, which means it is made up of sand, clay, and silt.  Clay and silt have a much higher Cation Exchange Capacity, which means Indian River soil does a much better job of storing all of the nutrients needed for healthy citrus trees.

The colors on this map represent different types of mineral deposits found in Florida's soil.  Note the green band that runs along the Indian River.

So it’s not just your imagination – Indian River citrus really is better.  Just memorize the phrase “Cation Exchange Capacity”, and you’ll be able to impress your friends the next time you’re talking about Indian River citrus.

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