Agricultural Economics Series No. 49-2
COSTS AND RETURNS ON PERSIAN LIMES IN DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA
SEASONS, 1939-1947, INCLUSIVE-/
Donald L. Brooke
Associate Agricultural Economist
Florida Agricultural Lxperiment Stations
Charles H. Steffani
John D. Campbell
Assistant County Agent
Florida Agricultural Extension Service
Dade County, Florida
Introduction: Upon the request of a group of avocado and lime growers
in Dade County, Florida, and with the help of a Research Committee appointed
from among their number, this study of costs and returns was made. The Re-
search Committee obtained records of planting, maintenance costs and returns
on limes for the past nine years. As of June 1, 1948 there were by tree count
approximately 3,139 acres of limes, both bearing and nonbearing in Dade County.
Table 1 shows the breakdown of this acreage.
Records obtained cover 47 percent of the limes planted in Dade County
during the years 1945, 1946, and 1947. Of the limes 4 years old and over in
1947, records were obtained on 4.9 percent of the acreage.
Data secured by the Research Committee were taken from grower, care-
taker, or cooperative association records. Some of the data are for one year
of operation while others cover the full period 1939-47. It is expected that
costs and returns will be secured on a continuing basis from an increasing
number of growers for summarization each year. As the, sample is increased
these summaries will more clearly reflect average operations and become more
important to growers and the industry.
Acknowledgments: The writers wish to express their appreciation to members
of the Research Committee of the Tropical Fruit Growers Association for the
many hours devoted to the gathering of records, committee meetings and valu-
able suggestions offered; to the growers who so willingly cooperated in giv-
ing their records; and to members of the Staff of the Florida Agricultural
Experiment Stations and Florida Agricultural Extension Service for advice and
suggestions, Much credit is due Dr. C. V. Noble, under whose direction this
study was made.
Table l.--Acreages of Commercial Bearing and Nonbearing Limes,
Dade County, Florida, June, 1948.
I- II I I I [ I'
0 1 year 472
1 2 years 191
2 3 years 173
4 years old and over 2,303
Total all limes 3,139
Source: Tree count survey by C. H. Steffani and J. D. Camn-
Age Groups, Grove Valuation and Interest Rates: At the first meeting
of the Research Committee of avocado and lime growers the age groups to be
used and the valuation to be placed upon planted, young and bearing limes
was discussed. The Committee agreed that all data should be set up on the
basis of four age groups: planting groves, 1 to 3 years, 4 to 7 years, and
8 years of age and over. Hence, all records have been divided into these
groups and tabulated accordingly.
Normal grove valuation is a difficult figure to determine. In the
mind of the grove owner it may vary yearly according to the condition of the
grove, its age, location, or the price of fruit received and expected. After
much discussion it was decided by the Research Committee that the per acre
valuation for lime groves of various ages to be used in calculating interest
on investment would be as shown in Table 2.
Table 2.--Per Acre Valuation and Interest on Lime Groves by
Age Groups, Dade County, Florida, 1948.
Years Valuation Interest1/
or Age per Acre-'
1 $ 400 $ 24.00
2 550 33.00
3 700 42.00
4 850 51.00
5 1,000 60.00
6 1,100 66.00
7 1,200 72.00
8 and over 1,250 75.00
1/ Computed at 6% per annum,
Six percent was agreed upon by the Committee as a normal interest rate
to charge against grove valuation to growing expense. Interest is charged
for the full year against grove valuation and on average capital requirement
against growing expense, i.e., 6 percent of yearly production expense for six
Climate: Hurricanes, with their accompanying winds and water, and
freezes are the two chief causes of disaster in the production of Persian
limes in Dade County, Wind whippage, tree damage and bruised fruit increase
the cost of maintenance and decrease returns to growers very materially.
Growing conditions of the tree and rootstock have some bearing on tree dam-
age from excessive water. Sunscald from water reflection where groves are under
water from one day to three weeks under clean cultivation is more prevalent.
Cover crops that will shade the ground during the hurricane season would seem
desirable. It is more desirable under any circumstances to secure high land
properly drained for planting lime groves.
Table 3 shows the dates of freezes and hurricanes in Dade County over
the past 14 years. The lime requires a relatively frost-free climate. Mature
lime trees, like other citrus, may be killed back by temperatures of 240 to
270 F. Young trees may be severely damaged by a 306 F. temperature.
Table 3.--Dates of Freezes and Hurricanes in Homestead, Florida,
Date Temperature Remarks
December 11, 1934 31.00 F. For six hours.
December 12, 1934 26.00 F. For several hours.
December 1, 1935 32.00 F,
January 28, 1938 32,00 F. Brief
January 28, 1940 28.50 F,
January 29, 1940 30.00 F.
January 30, 1940 30.00 F.
March 4, 1941 26.50 F. Below 32.00 F. for 3-1/2
February 3, 1942 30.00 F.
March 4, 1942 32.00 F.
February 15, 1943 26.00 F. Below 32.00 F. for 9 hours.
February 6, 1947 29.00 F.
September 2, 1935 Devastated Florida Keys.
November 4, 1935 Passed north of Miami,
October 6, 1941 Miami Area.
September 15, 1945 125 to 150 mile winds in
Source: Homestead Sub-tropical Experiment Station records,
Planting Groves: Limes in Dade County are, for the most part, planted
on Rockdale rock soils. While these soils are composed mostly of porous
Miami oolite, there are two more or less distinct phases, the fine sandy loam
phase and the fine sandy phase. The dominant native vegetation is slash pine
and saw-palmetto. Good drainage is essential to successful production of
limes. Natural drainage in this area is not sufficient and, as a consequence,
groves planted on the lower lands may be 'damaged by high water during the
Development costs per acre for planting groves in 1946 and 1947 are
shown in Table 4. The cost of uncleared land ranges from $50 to $120 per
acre in this area and averaged $74.80 per acre for lime groves planted during
the 1946 and 1947 seasons.
The land must be cleared of all trees and other vegetation and the
rock broken up by scarifying. This is done with bulldozers and heavy plowing
equipment. Planting rows are laid out and the center of each row is scari-
fied to a depth of 10 to 18 inches. The intervening space between rows is
scarified to a-depth of six to eight inches. Some growers recommend blasting
in the tree row to a depth of 30 inches after scarifying. The rock is broken
up and mounded over the tree row, The land is then tracked or levelled by
bulldozers or levellers. Cost of clearing, scarifying and planting prepar-
ation is from $100 to $140 per acre and is usually contracted. During the
1946-47 period the average cost of land preparation was $120.50 per acre for
10 groves containing 376,6 acres*
Costs to the grove owner for raising lime trees to sufficient size for
resetting were not obtained in detail but estimated by grove owners at $0.65
to $1.00 per tree. Nurserymen charge $0.75 to $1.00 for youhg lime trees.
Costs per acre for trees shown in Table 4 assume solid block plantings of
Planting widths for trees vary considerably between groves. Older
groves have been planted in 20 x 30 foot checks while some of the more recent
plantings are in 18 x 20, 20 x 20 and 25 x 20 foot chocks. Lime trees are
not a spreading grower and may be spaced closer together than other citrus
trees. Spacings in any grove should be consistent to allow for straight-line
Planting widths for avocado groves are similar to those for limes
described above. Where limes are interplanted in the avocado groves the lime
trees are placed in the check between the avocado trees. The lime matures
more quickly than the avocado and it is thought, helps returns a profit to
the grower until such time as the avocados shade out the lime trees. Another
reason for this type of planting is that it gives more efficient use of land
during the first 10 or 12 years of grove life.
The planting season generally starts in April and ends in September.
Planting, fertilization and watering are done with hand labor. Holes are
scooped out at the check, the tree inserted, and the hole refilled with rotted
compost and soil. The soil is packed around the tree and water added, if
needed, to supply sufficient moisture for starting the young tree. Successive
applications of water are made as needed.. Labor costs for planting ranged
from $26.66 in 1947 to $42.37 in 1946 and averaged $34.51 per acre for the
two seasons. The cost of fertilizer for establishing young trees averaged
$12.48 per acre for the two seasons studied. Mulching of trees with green
or decomposed vegetable matter where sufficient moisture is made available
is also beneficial. Where shavings or sawdust are used, care should be taken
to insure moisture penetration.
Since most grove owners and caretaking organizations keep their books
on a calendar year basis and most young groves are planted in the summer
months records were obtained on the calendar year. Interest on the cash cost
of planting young lime groves was charged at 6 percent for three months in-
stead of the full period of six months to compensate for the average need of
capital during the period. Interest charges averaged $9.82 per acre.
Total costs of developing young lime groves during year of setting
ranged from $268.14 in 1946 to $406.16 in 1947 and averaged $337.15 for the
two seasons. All costs except labor were higher in 1947 than in 1946.
Growing Costs: Data presented in Tables 5, 6, and 7 show by age groups
the cost of growing and net returns per acre and per bushel on limes for sev-
eral seasons. Th total costs as shown in those tables cover all expenses
up to harvesting.-.Y
On groves I to 3 years of age, Table 5, the total cost of production
increased 14 percent from 1946 to 1947. All growing costs except labor were
higher in the latter year. None of these groves were old enough to bear fruit.
Cpsts per acre for labor on groves 4 to 7 years of age, Table 6, ranged
from $30.30 in 1940 to $143,49 per acre in 1944. Average cost for labor over
the nine-year period was $71.14 per acre. High labor costs in the 1945 and
1946 seasons were the results of repairing hurricane damage of September 15,
Fertilizer costs per acre increased 368 percent from 1939 to 1945.
Some of this increase may be attributed to an increase in fertilizer prices
during the past 10 years. Too, growers are using greater amounts of fertilizer
and adding more of the rare elements than they did in prewar years. The aver-
age cost of fertilizer on these young lime groves was $53.78 per acre for the
"Other costs" as shown in these tables include such items as cover
crop seed, mowing, irrigation fuel, tree replacements, depreciation on wells
and equipment, taxes, grove supplies, office supplies, audit expense and
machine hire. Though a breakdown of these items is highly desirable, it was
not available on a sufficient number of records to comprise a fair sample,
Many of the groves are small and individual owners cannot economically
afford to afford to own sufficient equipment for proper grove care. Much of
27 Expenses and methods of harvesting and packing are the subjects of study
by another committee of the Tropical Fruit Growers Association and will
be reported separately.
the cultural work and bookkeeping for absentee and resident owners is done by
Total growing costs in the 4 to 7 year age group varied from $135.22
per acre in 1939 to $375.43 per acre in 1945, an increase of 178 percent.
Average costs for the period 1939-47 were $245.36 per acre for $2.38 per bu-
For bearing lime groves, those 8 years old and over, labor costs in-
creased 241 percent from 1940 to 1945 and fertilizer costs 215 percent from
1941 to 1947. For the eight-year period 1940-47 the average cost per acre for
labor was $62.81 and fertilizer $49.21. Total growing cost for the same
period averaged $241,53 per acre or $1.69 per bushel.
Yields and Returnst Yields on lime groves 4 to 7 years of age ranged
from 58.9 bushels in 1940 and 1946, to 162.5 bushels per acre in 1947. The
average yield per acre was 103.3 bushels for the nine-year period.
On groves 8 years of age and over, 1946 was the low year with 93.9 bu-
shels per acre and 1941 the high year with 220.8 bushels per acre. For the
1940-47 period the average yield was 142.8 bushels per acre,
Total returns per bushel on-tree were highest in 1945 but net returns
were highest in 1947 in the 4 to 7 year age group. This group showed a net
profit in five of the nine years but averaged a $0.16 per bushel loss during
the nine years.
The returns on older groves ranged from a net loss of $1.05 per bushel
in 1946, a result of hurricane damage, short crop, and low price to a net
profit of $2.05 per bushel in 1943, a year of fair yield and good prices,
Net returns on-tree for the 1940-47 period show an average profit of $0.58
per bushel for the 46 groves studied.
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