Sugarcane is a tropical grass native to Asia where it has been grown in gardens for over 4,000 years. It is a giant, robust, sugary plant produced by interbreeding four species of the Saccharum genus. Methods for manufacturing sugar from sugarcane were developed in India about 400 BC. Christopher Columbus brought the plant to the West Indies, and today sugarcane is cultivated in tropical and sub-tropical regions throughout the world. Over 62% of the world's sugar comes from sugarcane.
Currently, sugarcane is planted on approximately 440,000 acres in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), making it the most extensively grown row crop in Florida. Production is primarily on land along or near the southern half of Lake Okeechobee. Most of the production is in Palm Beach County, but sugarcane is also grown in Hendry, Glades and Martin counties. Eighty percent of the crop is grown on high organic matter muck soils and 20% is grown on sand. About 50% of the cane sugar produced in the U.S. comes from Florida, which accounts for about 20% of all sugar consumed (cane and beet) in the country. The Florida sugar industry employs over 14,000 people has an annual income over $800 million, and a total economic value (from direct and indirect effects) of over $2 billion.
For more information see "An Overview of Florida Sugarcane".
Rice is a member of the grass family and the genus Oryza. Archeological evidence indicates a sophisticated rice cultivation system existed in China over 7,000 years ago. Today, there are 110 rice producing countries in the world, ranging from the Himalayan Mountains to lowland delta areas. Rice is the staple food in Asia, Latin America, parts of Africa, and the Middle East.
The annual Florida rice crop ranges from about 6,000 to 20,000 depending upon market prices and other factors. Growing rice in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) is generally not very profitable. Most growers plant rice because flooding of the fields during rice production greatly reduces harmful soil pests as the rice plant itself contributes large amounts of straw to the fields which improves soil tilth and drainage. These and other factors can result in higher sugarcane yields.
The majority of the rice in Florida is grown in Palm Beach and Hendry Counties. Because of Florida's long growing season, rice plants can be harvested and then allowed to regrow for a second harvest, called a ratoon-crop. The high nitrogen in our organic soils and the south Florida environment give Florida grown rice higher protein than similar varieties from other states.
Commercial sod production has risen in Florida due to an influx of people moving to the state and a steady building construction. Sod production involves growing a solid stand of desirable grass species and then harvesting it intact with a thin layer of soil and roots attached to it. Approximately 14,000 acres of sod are currently grown in Palm Beach County.
The dark muck soils of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) are ideal for growing sod because they are highly fertile. Additionally, their comparatively low bulk density makes sod grown on them less expensive to ship than sod grown on heavier soils. Its proximity to large markets on both the east and west coasts of Florida also makes the EAA an ideal location for sod production. Several varieties of high quality St. Augustine, Zoysia, and other species are grown by local producers.
For more information see "Sod Production in Florida".