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Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
Fact Sheet RF-AC003
Cooperative E\tension Service
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Alternative Opportunities for Small Farms: Apple
T. E. Crocker, W. B. Sherman, T. D. Hewitt, and Kathleen C. Ruppert2
Florida apples are not like apples grown in the North
or Northwest in quality and/or color. If the consumer is
used to northern apples, you may have a hard time
marketing Florida apples. The major production area for
apples has traditionally been the North and Northwest
portion of the United States. With controlled atmosphere
storage the quality of apples is maintained throughout the
Although there has been discussion of using apples as
an alternative crop, the apple varieties introduced (Anna
and Dorsett Golden) were primarily developed for the
homeowner. At the time of their introduction it was
known their commercial development would be limited
due to their intensive management requiring excellent
horticultural skills. It should be remembered that fruit
may look good on the tree, but not in a commercial fruit
display next to controlled atmosphere stored apples.
At the present time the commercial acreage is small.
Selling through the local trade is the primary means of
marketing. Most operations are pick-your-own with some
sold through direct marketing outlets. Potential marketing
outlets include: u-pick, roadside stands, produce markets
and local grocery stores. Production of apple cider may be
a potential alternative. There are no organized marketing
channels for apples in Florida.
Prices received for fruit vary tremendously and yield
records are unknown. For pick-your-own and
diversification, one or 2 acres may be fine. Apples are
generally ready June 15th to July 1st and will store about
two months under refrigeration when picked mature.
Labor and Capital
It usually takes 3 years from planting before you
harvest the first crop. During the first and second years
any fruit produced should be removed to allow the tree to
divert its energy into growing more leaves and limbs.
Excellent management is required. Hand labor is needed
for pruning, thinning and picking. Trees will grow tall
enough to require ladders for picking.
Apples ripen satisfactorily on the tree and they should
be picked when they have reached optimum size and color
(they generally only reach 30-40% red blush). Fruit of
Anna have been held under refrigeration satisfactorily for
6 weeks. Apples require cold storage to hold the
fruit--between 35 to 40F.
1. This document is Fact Sheet RF-AC003, one of a series of the Extension Administration Office, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and
Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. First Published: June 1987. Revised January 1994. Please visit the FAIRS Web site at http://hanunock.ifas.ufl.edu.
2. T. E. Crocker, professor; W. B. Sherman, professor, Horticultural Sciences Department; T. D. Hewitt, associate professor, NFREC, Quincy; and Kathleen C.
Ruppert, assistant professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University
of Florida, Gainesville, 32611.
The Institute of Food and Agricultural 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 regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national origin.
For information on obtaining other extension publications, contact your county Cooperative Extension Service office. Florida Cooperative
Extension Service I Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences / University of Florida / Christine Taylor Waddill, Dean
Alternative Opportunities for Small Farms: Apple Production Review
Commercial grove records from Georgia indicate a
total per acre cost of producing and packing apples of
$2,200 per acre from a 100 acre grove. Smaller acreages
in Florida would probably incur per acre costs 10 to 15
Apple trees grow best if planted on a fertile sandy
loamy soil with deep drainage. It is advisable to select a
site which allows good air drainage to reduce frost damage
to blooms in the late spring. For apple production you
also want to have sites with low spring frost risks and
areas free of mushroom root rot.
Water should be applied through the dry spring
months and other dry periods. The area beneath the
canopy of the trees should be wet to a depth of several feet
at each irrigation which may require more than 50 gallons
of water per tree for large trees or as little as 5 to 10
gallons for young trees. Irrigation may be required every 7
to 10 days under extremely dry conditions. Drip irrigation
is recommended due to decreased disease problems.
Apple cultivars are not true to type when grown from
seed. Therefore, growers are advised to obtain known
cultivars on suitable rootstock. Standard rootstocks are
used in Florida as the dwarfing rootstocks do not hold up
well under Florida conditions.
Anna apple is highly self-unfruitful and should be
planted with the pollenizer Dorsett Golden to insure good
fruit set. There are different planting schemes available to
A 20 X 20 foot spacing is normally recommended but
one can also use a 15 X 20 foot spacing. It is quite easy
to obtain a few apple trees from nurseries
but you would have to contract ahead of time for large
Preventive control for all insects and diseases is
required to maintain healthy trees and good fruit quality.
Research on insect and disease control has been limited,
but from production in neighboring states, apple
production will require at least 18 to 22 sprayings per
year. Anna is very susceptible to powdery mildew
whereas Dorsett Golden is not. Rabbit control is also
important as they eat the bark of apple trees during the
winter months and can kill the tree by girdling the trunk.
Fertilizer requirements for apple trees are largely
unknown for Florida conditions and tremendous
nutritional problems are still being exhibited. Calcium
and boron deficiencies are very common. Another
problem is thinning of fruit for larger size, as research has
not been done in Florida.
Cultivation is usually necessary only for weed control
and should be done as shallow as possible to avoid
damage to the root system. Chemical weed control is
standard but care should be taken on previously tilled land
to determine what and when herbicides have been used on
the acreage previously to see if the same herbicides are
compatible with apples.
Young apple trees should be pruned to a modified
leader system. On 2-year-old trees, 5 to 6 strong scaffold
limbs should be selected to develop a strong framework.
These limbs should have wide angles almost perpendicular
to the trunk of the tree, should be radially spaced around
the tree trunk and vertically spaced approximately 6-8
inches from each other up or down the trunk. Later
pruning of the tree will be to remove diseased or dead
wood and to trim the tree to the desired shape.