Optimizing Fruit Spacing in Florida Peach Production
Peach (Prunus persicaL.) production in the state of Florida has garnered much attention as a profitable alternative crop for growers seeking farm diversification. To produce the quality of fruit required to meet market and consumer demands, several intensive production practices must be completed at the proper time. Marketable fruit size ranges from 2.25-inch (5.7 cm) diameter to >2.5-inch (6.4 cm) diameter, with growers receiving premium prices as they are able to produce larger fruit. Four fruit-thinning treatments (unthinned, 10.2-cm (4 inch) spacing, 15.2-cm (6 inch) spacing, and 22.9-cm spacing (9 inch) were applied to three different varieties (‘Flordaprince’, ‘Tropicbeauty’, and ‘UFBeauty’) located at Water Conserv II (Winter Garden, FL), and one variety (‘Flordaprince’) in Citra, FL during the 2010 growing season. In 2011, ‘UFBeauty’ was replaced by ‘UFSun’ at Water Conserv II and a 30.5-cm (12 inch) spacing was added. Harvest of all cultivars occurred at commercial maturity and was divided into three categories: large fruit [6.4-cm (2.5 inch) diameter and greater], marketable fruit [5.7-cm (2.5 to 2.25 inch) diameter] and small, non-marketable fruit [less than 5.7-cm (2.25 inch) diameter]. In both locations, fruit spaced at the wider spacings were larger. The greatest amount of non-marketable fruit was produced when trees were not thinned. Thus, these results indicate the fruit should be thinned with 6 to 9 inches between fruit for maximum size and profitability.