Alternative Opportunities For Small Farms: Pecan Production Review ( Publisher's URL )

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Alternative Opportunities For Small Farms: Pecan Production Review
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Fact sheet
Crocker, Timothy E.
University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences, EDIS
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
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Collected for University of Florida's Institutional Repository by the UFIR Self-Submittal tool. Submitted by Melanie Mercer.
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"First Published: June 1987. Revised: August 1997."
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University of Florida Institutional Repository
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University of Florida
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All rights reserved by the submitter.
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1.This document is Fact Sheet RF-AC020, one of a series of the Extension Administration Office, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and A g ricultural Sciences, Universit y of Florida. First Published: June 1987. Revised: Au g ust 1997. Please visit the FAIRS Website at The Institute of Food and A g ricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without re g ard to race, color, sex, a g e, handicap, or national ori g in. For information on obtainin g other extension publications, contact your county Cooperative Extension Service office. Florida Cooperative Extension Service / Institute of Food and A g ricultural Sciences / University of Florida / Christine Taylor Waddill, Dean 2.T.E. Crocker, professor, Horticultural Sciences Department, T.D. Hewitt, professor, NFREC-Marianna, John Gordon, professor, F ood and Resource Economics, and K.C. Ruppert, assistant professor, Florida Ener gy Extension Service, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and A g ricultural Sciences, Universit y of Florida, Gainesville, 32611.Fact Sheet RF-AC020Alternative Opportunities for Small Farms: Pecan Production Review1 T.E. Crocker, T.D. Hewitt, John Gordon and K.C. Ruppert2Pecans rank as one of the most important deciduous fruit crops in Florida with their distribution primarily in the northern part of the state but will grow from Pensacola to Miami. In recent years there has been increasing interest shown in the commercial production of pecans in Florida. This is occurring in central Florida, primarily Alachua and Dixie County areas, and in north Florida. High start-up costs and the length of time needed to establish a productive grove are important economic features of pecans. Advantages to pecan production include the fact they are a tree crop (perennial), there is an extended period of harvest and they can be completely mechanized. The main disadvantages include the long term investment which represents a negative cash flow for a long start-up period, management requirements are high and production is unknown for north Florida.Marketin g Situation Production of pecans has remained fairly stable inestablishment period, outlay including interest will likely Florida over the last few years. Florida producesbe in the range of $4,000 to $4,500 per acre. approximately 6.5 million lbs produced within the state with an on-farm value of $1.00 per lb for a total on-farmEven if money is not borrowed it is appropriate to value of pecans of approximately $4 to 6 million. Pecansinclude interest costs because the money could have been are typically marketed in bulk through an organizedinvested in a savings account, bond or other investment. marketing effort. This method results in greater net profitLikewise an appropriate charge for land should be added to the these figures to reflect the total costs of developing andLabor and CapitalAn appealing factor about pecan production and the expansion of the industry over the next 10 years is that the complete care of the pecan trees, harvesting, cleaning, cracking and packaging can all be done mechanically. Much of the equipment used in citrus production can also be adapted for pecans. Any potential pecan grower needs to recognize that a considerable period of time is required to bring an orchard into production (8 to 10 years) and that a minimum acreage (usually at least 30 acres) is required for commercial production. In north Florida figures, an annual expenditure of $800 (not including land costs) is required to establish an acre of pecans. Of this $800, variable costs are about $500 with fixed costs (costs such as depreciation and overhead) representing the balance. After establishment, the annual costs associated with a developing orchard will be about $470 (again land costs are excluded). So by the end of the seven year establishing a grove. To recapture this investment over a


Alternative Opportunities for Small Farms: Pecan Production Review Pa g e 2June 199820 year payback period, the grower would need to obtain an average yield of 700 to 1000 lbs per acre and realize a price of $.70 to $1.00 per lb. Depending upon the individual investor's situation, tax consequences of this investment may also be an important consideration.Suitabilit y There are many varieties of pecans available for planting in Florida. Production will depend on several factors such as the age of trees, number and variety of trees per acre and whether there is irrigation. A typical yield of pecans in Florida is likely to be within the range of 800 to 1200 lbs per acre. Native to river bottoms, pecans will grow on all types of soils with appropriate adjustments of fertilizer and water. An adjustment may also have to be made in the number of sprayings for pest control due to the high humidity prevalent in the area. Good production management has many growers using low volume irrigation to increase yields and to reduce alternate bearing problems (tendency to bear heavily one year and light the next). Research results have shown that irrigation of pecans on heavier soils is beneficial and many acres in Florida are being converted to drip irrigation. This is especially true with young plantings. With drip irrigation there is better survival of the young trees and with intense cultural practices, such as complete spray and fertilizer programs, the time it takes to bring an orchard into production can be cut by 30 to 40%. On heavy soils the irrigation system should be engineered so that it can deliver 3600 gallons/acre/day via drip emitters--on sandy soils probably more. Due to the warmer climate it is not sure if the chilling requirement (number of hours below 45 F) for pecans would be met from year to year. In addition, pecan trees up to ten years of age are subject to cold damage winter injury).Plantin g SituationThere are numerous varietal possibilities which may be planted in the area but spacing for all varieties should be 40 feet within the rows and 40 feet between the rows. Presently, plenty of nursery trees are available.Cultural Pro g ram Production practices on pecans have been changing drastically over the last five years with more growers intensifying their production management level to include a complete spray and fertilizer program coupled with leaf analysis. A thorough spray schedule which would include 8-16 sprays per year is necessary. The fertilizer requirement at present is unknown for the area but would expect to have to make 2 to 3 applications per year. There is also a critical requirement for all minor elements. Weed control is mandatory. A potential pecan grower should be sure to determine what and when herbicides have been used on the acreage previously to see if the same herbicides are compatible with pecans.