Title: 1995 Ag-Environmental: Schroeder Manatee Ranch
Type: Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award
Dawn in Southwest Florida. As the cattle wander through a foggy pasture, one can almost picture this ranch as it was in the 1920s. A lot has changed in Florida since that time, and the Schroeder-Manatee Ranch has kept pace.
Florida's Gulf Coast is one of the nation's fastest growing areas. Innovative techniques are required by agriculture to meet the demands of a growing population. Schroeder-Manatee, located in Sarasota and Manatee counties, strives to stay at the forefront in several areas of environmental protection, especially water conservation. One of those innovations is the FX-10, a draught-resistant sod, grown on the ranch and increasingly used in urban landscaping.
In an effort to reduce its dependence on the aquifer, Schroeder-Manatee worked with local government to develop another irrigation source.
Clive Morris: It was back in about 1985 we went into a 20-year agreement with Manatee County to take all their recycled, reused water -- the treated waste water from the plants -- and utilize it out here for irrigation purposes.
The 28,000-acre ranch adapted new methods to use this water source effectively. Underground tiles irrigate the fields from the ground up. This raises the water table and ensures the root systems are given an adequate water supply while minimizing loss to evaporation.
Treated waste water -- applied through low-volume irrigation -- is the main source of water for Schroeder-Manatee's 1,300 acres of citrus groves. A series of microjets delivers a controlled amount of water to each tree. Using a method called fertigation, the microjets feed concentrated amounts of liquid fertilizer in smaller, more precise applications, reducing waste and nutrient runoff.
The ranch uses integrated pest management practices, such as scouting, in reducing the use of pesticides. Miticides have been eliminated in citrus groves where the fruit is destined for the juice market. Runoff from the groves is pumped into retention ponds, where plants absorb the nutrients. The ranch consistently monitors surface and ground water to ensure its quality.
Along with the sod fields and citrus groves, Schroeder-Manatee's ornamental tree farm uses low-volume irrigation. The older, established trees are watered using drip irrigation, while the above-ground potted trees use microjets.
4,000 acres of the ranch are leased by tenant farmers for row crop production. As part of its water conservation policy, Schroeder-Manatee has required these farmers to use drip irrigation since 1988.
Schroeder-Manatee actively promotes soil conservation. Engineered field drainage systems help minimize soil erosion, while the planting of cover crops reduces wind erosion. Pasture rotation is a major component of the ranch's soil conservation program. After two years of row crop production the fields are rotated to sod production and cattle grazing.
The 2,500 cows aren't the only animals that benefit from Schroeder-Manatee's stewardship. Native wildlife such as wading birds and alligators can appreciate the ranch's conservation efforts.
Clive Morris: I think a good steward of the land is someone who has a very clear idea of his use of the land so that it could be passed on without any degradation to future generations for their enjoyment and use."