The University of Florida has developed several low-chill peach varieties that do well without prolonged periods of cold winter temperatures.
The University of Florida has developed several low-chill peach varieties that do well without prolonged periods of cold winter temperatures.

With many Florida growers looking at citrus alternatives, some may wonder about the profitability of peaches before jumping into the stone fruit crop.

By the third year of a peach orchard, growers could see a small profit, according to an orchard budget developed by University of Florida assistant horticulture professor Mercy Olmstead.

Along with former Mississippi State University assistant horticulture professor Kim Morgan—now an assistant agriculture professor at Virginia Tech—Olmstead created a four-year peach orchard budget and growing operation plan.

“This is good news,” she said in a news release. “It is typically seven years before you get a commercial crop on citrus and probably eight before you are profitable.”

Florida peaches enter the market earlier than most other production areas, giving growers a head start on the competition.

During the first two years of operations, peach growers invest about $11,600 per acre before they see a profit.

During the third year, they could see an income of $10,150 per acre with costs of $8,342 per acre for a profit of about $1,800.

The costs are based on interviews with 26 of the state's approximately 40 peach growers. The growers had varying expenses and ranged from those just having planted an orchard to having 5 or more years' experience.

The budget includes costs for pesticide sprays, trees, fuel, repairs and more.

A 2011 Florida grower survey showed the state had about 670 acres of the stone fruit. An additional 300 to 400 acres were planted in 2012.

Those acres are now producing about 4.5 million pounds per year with a estimated value of $6 million.