The Role of Research and Extension in Establishment of a Florida Stone Fruit Industry

Mercy A. Olmstead

Abstract


The University of Florida stone fruit breeding program has successfully bred low-chill varieties for over 50 years, with extensive plantings in low-chill production areas worldwide. Although a small stone fruit industry (~4,000 acres) was originally established in northern Florida, successive cold events in the 1980s reduced plantings to less than 500 acres. Recent releases from the stone fruit breeding program now target central and south-central Florida for orchard development, where the risk of spring freeze events is minimized. Short fruit development periods, non-melting flesh texture, and a unique marketing window in April and May with little worldwide competition for fresh fruit will allow growers to take advantage of favorable market prices and maximize profits. However, cultivation of stone fruit is intensive and requires constant monitoring to manage both abiotic and biotic production challenges. In addition, economic analyses, development of marketing tools, fertilization techniques, frost protection, and cultural management are important issues that need industry input as research and extension programming expands. As stone fruit acreage increases in Florida, communication between the research and extension community, producers, marketers, and buyers will enable development of applied projects that successfully address industry challenges.

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Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc.     ISSN 0886-7283