By Clint Thompson
Florida peaches are in production earlier than normal this year, and the high temperatures in March are a big reason why, says David Wheeler, peach grower in Lake Placid, Florida.
“We are picking earlier and picking volumes earlier than we normally would because of the warm temperatures,” Wheeler said. “Quality’s excellent. Size might be a little smaller. We’ve got good volumes. People should be able to find them in their supermarkets now. If not, they need to be asking for them.”
Wheeler said he has already been harvesting his early peach varieties for two weeks. Early indications are that the extreme heat has not affected the peach taste.
“They have excellent eating quality. (But) because they came on and ripened quicker, they haven’t sized as much,” Wheeler said. “The Florida peach tends to be a little smaller, but it has a much bigger taste than peaches in other areas.”
Producers in Florida are in the midst of a prolonged dry period. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 88 percent of the state’s population resides in counties classified as abnormally dry or worse. Most of Wakulla County and part of Jefferson County are deemed D2 status, which is a severe drought.
According to David Zierden, a state climatologist at Florida State University’s Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies, the last appreciable rainfall across the peninsula came in February. However, it doesn’t appear to have had much of an impact on Florida’s peach production.
“Particularly in the southern two-thirds of the state, I’d say 2020 has been very dry. The lack of rain may not be a big deal as much as the heat,” Wheeler said. “It’s definitely unseasonably warm.”
Primarily a citrus grower, Wheeler began producing peaches when citrus greening disease became problematic in Florida and has since wiped out a bulk of citrus production in the state. Wheeler produces 120 acres of peach trees. He is currently harvesting a pair of varieties, UF Best and the UF Sun. Wheeler says he has had the most success producing UF Sun.
Peach season in Florida typically lasts through mid-May. But that should change this year, which could help farmers maximize their marketing opportunities before Georgia’s peach season begins.
“I would anticipate we’ll be wrapping up at least two weeks early this year,” Wheeler said. “I think it’s a good thing, if we can get in and out of the market. We’d much rather be early than late.”
Share this Post