Overcoming Microclimate Challenges to Improve Organic Spinach Production in Florida

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2017: $16,495.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2021
Grant Recipient: University of Florida
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Dr. Xin Zhao
University of Florida


  • Vegetables: greens (leafy)


  • Crop Production: high tunnels or hoop houses
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: composting, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Organic spinach is among the top organic vegetables sold in the United States, and growth of spinach production tops the list. Climatic conditions have limited spinach production in the south, where high humidity and warm temperatures negatively affect spinach growth and quality. Florida's climate also includes drastic variations in temperatures during the spinach growing season. High tunnel production and appropriate cultivar selection has the potential to mitigate many of these environmental extremes, yet there is a lack of research-based information under Florida conditions. Additionally, proper compost application has the potential to overcome spinach germination difficulties, which is a challenge to growers particularly in warm climates. Given the growing interest in spinach production in Florida, the objectives of this project are to (1) evaluate spinach cultivars for their adaptation to organic production under the subtropical conditions in Florida; (2) assess the effects of different types of composts on spinach germination and growth, as well as soil fertility and quality; and (3) determine the challenges and benefits of high tunnel production in terms of spinach performance and soil quality. This research will address the SARE targeted issues by (1) identifying production methods and systems that help overcome production challenges, improve environmental quality, and promote crop diversity, (2) developing cultivar and compost management recommendations towards improving organic farming methods for growers in the South, and (3) improving quality of life of local growers and consumers by enhancing production of spinach, a widely consumed health-promoting, nutrient-dense leafy vegetable.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The goal of this research is to identify production techniques that promote sustainable spinach production in Florida.
    Objective 1: Identify the current spinach production practices of organic farmers and challenges of organic spinach production in Florida to understand the range of issues and most common difficulties faced.
    Objective 2: Assess the effects of cultivar, compost, and high tunnel system on organic spinach production to develop techniques which help mitigate identified common difficulties.
    Objective 3: Disseminate research information through a grower's workshop and presentation at the Florida State Horticultural Society conference.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.