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Eric Simonne, Chad Hutchinson, Jim DeValerio, Robert Hochmuth, Danielle Treadwell, Allan Wright, Bielinski Santos, Alicia Whidden, Gene McAvoy, Xin Zhao, Teresa Olczyk, Aparna Gazula and Monica Ozores-Hampton

The success of the best management practices (BMPs) program for vegetables in Florida is measured by the level of BMP implementation and the improvement of water quality. Both require keeping water and fertilizer in the root zone of vegetables. The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension Vegetable Group has identified the fundamental principles of 1) basing UF/IFAS production recommendations on the rigors of science and the reality of field production; 2) replacing the out-of-date paradigm “pollute less by reducing nutrient application rates” with “improve water management and adjust fertilizer programs accordingly”; 3) engaging growers, consultants, educators, and regulators in open-channel discussions; and 4) regularly updating current fertilization and irrigation recommendations for vegetables grown in Florida to reflect current varieties used by the industry. The group identified 1) developing ultralow-flow drip irrigation; 2) assisting conversion from seepage to drip irrigation; 3) using recycled water; 4) developing controlled-release fertilizers for vegetables; 5) developing real-time management tools for continuous monitoring of soil water and chemical parameters; 6) developing yield mapping tools for vegetable crops; 7) developing and testing drainage lysimeter designs suitable for in-field load assessment; and 8) using grafting and breeding to develop commercially acceptable varieties with improved nutrient use efficiency by improving morphological, biochemical, and chemical traits as new strategies to keep nutrients in the root zone. These strategies should become funding priorities for state agencies to help the vegetable industry successfully transition into the BMP era.