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Revised September 2021.
There are two basic types of peaches (Prunus persica): clingstone and freestone. With clingstone peaches, the flesh “clings” to the "stone" of the peach, making it difficult to separate, and thus more suitable for processing.
The pit of freestone peaches "freely" separates from the flesh, making it ideal for fresh consumption. (Clemson University – Cooperative Extension, n.d.)
The inside flesh of peaches exists in three different colors: yellow, white and the less common red. In the United States yellow-fleshed peaches are the most common, having a balanced flavor of sweet and tangy. White-fleshed peaches are very common in Asian countries; and recently there has been a growing demand for them throughout the United States. White-fleshed peaches have less acidity, and therefore lack the tangy flavor that yellow peaches exhibit (Clemson University – Cooperative Extension, n.d.)
California clingstone peaches are available from July 10 to mid-September, while California freestone peaches are harvested from April 20 to October 10. The Southern states of Georgia and South Carolina provide peaches from May to August. For all other states the marketing season is from July to September.
In 2017, 45 percent of the total peach production was sold through the fresh sector (NASS, 2018). To add value to your fresh peach crop, peaches can be sold on site by offering a U-Pick operation or through farm stands and local farmers’ markets. Selling the uniquely shaped variety known as Donut, Saturn or Saucer can also fetch more value (Visit California, n.d.).
In 2017, 55 percent of the total peach production was processed. Of that 55 percent roughly 83 percent were canned, 17 percent were frozen, and the remainder were dried or used for other processed products (NASS, 2018). Peaches are not just for pies and cobblers anymore. Peaches have been processed into products such as, sorbets, yogurts, peach oil used in beauty products, and beer (Visit California, n.d.).
As of 2017, peaches are commercially produced in 20 states. The top four states in peach production are California, South Carolina, Georgia and New Jersey.
In 2017, California supplied nearly 56 percent of the United States fresh peach crop and more than 96 percent of processed peaches (NASS, 2021).
United States total peach production in 2020 was 617,760 tons valued at $521 million. California led the nation in peach production, with 468,000 tons valued at $308.3 million. South Carolina followed, producing 76,500 tons valued at $67 million. (NASS, 2021).
The bearing acreage of peach trees has been gradually declining for the past four decades. By 2020 the United States had 73,000 bearing acres of peach trees. The value of production, however, has been gradually increasing over the past four decades (NASS 2021).
In 2020, fresh peach prices averaged $255,150, down from $279,790 in 2018. Processed peach prices averaged $347,430, down from $358,230 in 2018 (NASS, 2021).
Planning and preparation before starting any orchard is the surest way to receive success with your harvest (Pennsylvania State University, n.d.).
Peach trees require chilling hours to induce flowering (600 chilling hours for low-chill varieties and 900 for higher chilling varieties). Peach trees can bloom relatively early in the spring, therefore areas that receive frosts after mid-April should not be used to establish a peach orchard. Peach trees also require a decent amount of heat for their fruit to ripen appropriately (Pennsylvania State University, n.d.).
Peach trees are self-pollinating; therefore all trees of the same cultivar can be planted next to each other allowing easier harvesting. One of the most important management practices for peach trees is the thinning of their fruit. This allows for the trees to produce bigger more colorful fruit. The average spacing between each fruit should be about six inches (Pennsylvania State University, n.d.).
Helpful enterprise budgets for peaches:
- 2009 Sample Costs to Establish and Produce Fresh Market Peaches (July/August Harvested Varieties) in the San Joaquin Valley – South, University of California – Cooperative Extension, 2009.
- 2017 Sample Costs to Establish and Produce Processing Peaches (Cling and Freestone, Early and Late Harvested Varieties) in the Sacramento Valley and San Joaquin Valley, University of California – Cooperative Extension, 2011.
- Orchard Establishment Preparation, PennState Extension, 2017.
- Sample Peach Budget Worksheets (Pre-planting/Planting, and Mature Production), Pennsylvania State – Extension, 2017
Different Kinds of Peaches, Clemson University – Cooperative Extension, n.d.
Management of Nectarines and Peaches, University of California – Integrated Pest Management (UC-IPM), 2014.
Noncitrus Fruits and Nuts Summary, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), USDA, 2021