Alternative Property Uses
Water is a precious and finite resource and state and federal governments are in the early stages of formulating rules that mandate water conservation and water quality. Evans is anticipating that forthcoming rules will provide landowners with a method through which we can be compensated for offering water-related services.
In addition to already existing water utility services such as the provision of potable water, irrigation and wastewater, there may be emerging markets for agricultural landowners to use our acreage for water attenuation, retention and storage as well aquifer-recharge and water polishing and cleansing.
In advance of these potential water services markets becoming economically viable, Evans has decided to pursue utility certification for some of our properties around the state. By having in-place utilities, we believe we will be better positioned to facilitate contractual relationships with other utilities and garner more favorable financing as a regulated utility in providing required infrastructure investments for any potential water services.
Utility certification will provide Evans with the appropriate vehicle to sustainably manage our water resources on our own land, while providing for future water needs in the areas where the utilities will be located. Evans is seeking utility certification on properties owned by the company in Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, Okeechobee, Pasco and Hernando counties. Evans has significant land holdings in all of these counties.
Alternative Crops/Farm to Fuel
Evans Properties, Inc. is engaged in field trials and economic evaluations of alternative crops that can be used in several applications, including mulch, farm to fuel, carbon sequestering, and reducing phosphorous in local waterways.
Eucalyptus grandis is a Native of Australia, and one of the fastest growing trees in the world. Evans has funded a grant with the University of Florida studying which of their patented cultivars grows best in Floridaís east coast soils, as well as which planting density is most productive. The tree has quite a few uses relevant to Florida. One is the mulch market, where Eucalyptus is already used as a substitute for cypress mulch, thus conserving wetland areas. We are also studying its feasibility as a biomass energy crop, in several applications. Eucalyptus can be pelletized for wood fired electricity production, which is a carbon neutral energy source replacing coal or oil. When cellulosic technology to produce ethanol becomes available, Eucalyptus will be a competitive "feedstock" (meaning crop source) for ethanol production.
Eucalyptus can grow on marginal soils with minimal inputs. When grown as an energy crop on previous farm land, eucalyptus can sequester carbon in the soil even when utilized for energy production. This occurs when cultivated cropland is converted to a forestry type land use, which research has shown allows for greater carbon sequestration within the soil. We are also studying Eucalyptus for soil bioremediation and phosphorous removal. Eucalyptus is a heavy consumer of phosphorous, and potentially could utilize excessive rainwater in the summertime to reduce freshwater flows into the Indian River Lagoon, while consuming any excess phosphorous and nitrogen.
Taxodium distichum, also known as Bald Cypress, is another tree Evans Properties, Inc. is experimenting with. These can grow in our heavier soils and will not be as susceptible to flooding damage as upland species are. Farmed Cypress trees could replace wild Cypress trees as a source of landscape mulch, as well as providing us with tree crop diversity within our acreage, and carbon sequestration. We have about 15,000 Cypress trees planted and under evaluation.
Pinus elliotti, or slash pine trees, have potential for both using pine needles as a landscape mulch and harvesting mature trees for lumber and mulch markets. We are growing approximately 100,000 slash pine trees and evaluating which soils are best suited for them.
Ricinus communis, or castor beans, produce a very complex and high-quality oil that can be used for pharmaceuticals, industrial lubricants, and biodiesel. We have a small test plot of these beans, to develop future plans with the crop.
Other energy crops under review are sunflower, sweet sorghum, kenaf, algae, camelina, and miscanthus. We have no field trials of these but are evaluating their potential. Evans Properties believes that we can find multiple crops to use for energy or consumer markets. Having various crops available will allow us to tailor each crop to its preferred soil types, while providing biodiversity within our landscape.
As with any new crop, there is an agronomic learning curve to navigate before it becomes economically feasible. In the case of energy crops and carbon sequestration, while public and political sentiment is very favorable, actual governmental policy initiatives and regulatory features are very uncertain at this time and awaiting legislation. The open market, in combination with governmental policy, will ultimately determine which, if any, energy crops become feasible to grow. Neither of those drivers have stabilized. We are committed to learn all we can about how to successfully farm these various crops, all of which have high potential, so that we will be ready to scale up production as needed in the future.
Additional Resources on BioEnergy and Mulch Crops
BioEnergy/ Farm to Fuel Crops