A Horticultural Sciences Department Extension Publication on Vegetable and Fruit
Eat your Veggies and Fruits!!!!!
Issue No. 560 August 2010
Observations of Low-Chill Peach Production in Central Florida
By: Gary K. England, Sumter County Extension, Bushnell, FL
There has been an increasing interest in the planting of peaches in Florida. Commercial
growers are evaluating peaches as a potential cash crop with a harvest window in which
there is little competition from other production regions. Peaches are also a crop that can
be grown and enjoyed by homeowners. Low-chill peach cultivars developed by the
UF/IFAS Horticultural Sciences Department have expanded the peach production region
from only north and north central Florida to almost the entire state.
For commercial growers, the key to success is harvesting high quality fruit during the
marketing window when there is no volume from other production regions. Also, to
capitalize on the full potential of the market, it is necessary to produce a fruit which can
be shipped over significant distances without loss of quality, which was associated with
some of the earlier low-chill cultivars. Recent releases of improved low-chill cultivars
with non-melting flesh meet these needs. The area of the state from Interstate 4 south is
likely where the majority of this early production will be centered.
Homeowners may consider growing peaches for several reasons. It may be that peaches
grew in the regions in which they lived before moving to Florida or as an option when
temperatures in their locale may be marginal to grow citrus, or they live in areas where
destructive diseases such as citrus greening or canker make dooryard production very
difficult. Peach production tends to be quite involved for the novice but with the proper
information in hand, it is a good opportunity to produce excellent quality fruit in the
In December 2006, a demonstration planting of low-chill peaches was established
through a partnership of the Water Conserv II Project in Orange County, the Mid-Florida
Citrus Foundation and UF/IFAS Extension. The purpose of the demonstration planting is
to evaluate peach as a potential crop to be produced with effluent irrigation water, plus it
also serves as an area for Extension field days where low-chill peach production
techniques are presented. The following sections reveal observations from three and one
half years experience growing these cultivars.
Pruning is the most important and most time-consuming production practice for peaches.
The best time to start the pruning program is at planting. Usually the grower can identify
the three to four main scaffold branches for the open-center, vase pruning system. If not
initiated at planting, it should be done as soon as possible after lateral branch formation
As the tree develops, there should be at least two main prunings per year. One should
take place immediately after harvest and one during the dormant time. Consult EDIS
document HS 1111 for the particulars on proper pruning practices.
To obtain proper fruit size, it is necessary to thin the fruit on most low-chill peach
cultivars. Like pruning, this procedure requires a significant amount of time. Best results
are obtained if this occurs before the fruit reach the size of a quarter. It is often necessary
to re-thin one or more times due to late bloom.
A thinning trial conducted in 2010 showed that thinning fruit to one every six to nine
inches provided the best results. We observed that wider fruit spacings also resulted in
earlier fruit for harvest. In the future there are plans to evaluate thinning earlier in the
bloom period for improved crop size.
The low-chill peach cultivars in the demonstration have responded well to irrigation with
effluent water delivered in under-tree micro-sprinklers. To avoid contact with the
irrigation water, care must be taken to remove any fruiting branches that could encounter
the spray from the micro-sprinklers to comply with Florida Department of Environmental
Regulation rules regarding effluent irrigation of edible crops.
The low-chill peach cultivars have responded well to moderate levels of plant nutrients
applied mainly through the irrigation system. Cultivars with the heaviest fruit load have
shown symptoms of Zn deficiency during the summer, making foliar applications of this
V. Pest Management
As with most tree crops, maintaining a weed free zone under the drip line of the trees is
necessary to obtain optimum growth and yield. There are various options available for
weed management, including numerous herbicides. When choosing herbicides, pay close
attention to all label instructions and specifically those referring to soil type and tree age,
before making your choice.
Plant disease is a concern with most peach cultivars. Well-timed fungicide applications
are usually necessary to manage fungal diseases such as peach scab and rust. Most of the
low-chill peach cultivars in the demonstration are tolerant to bacterial leafspot, but
bacterial blight-susceptible cultivars such as Flordaprince and Tropicbeauty may require
the application of dormant copper sprays.
There are numerous potential insect pests of peach. Applications of insecticide
throughout the growing season are necessary to manage borers. In the early stages of
fruit development, insecticide applications to manage stink bug populations are necessary
to avoid malformed fruit. As harvest approaches, applications to manage sap beetles may
also be required.