The value of all types of agricultural land — except citrus — continued its upward trend during the past year, according to a new University of Florida survey.

Land purchases by developers, speculators and government agencies, as well as individuals who want land for second homes, recreational uses and larger home sites away from urban areas, helped drive up the value of most property, said John Reynolds, an agricultural economist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

But citrus land proved to be the exception, continuing to slip for a second straight year.

"The value of orange and grapefruit groves declined in central Florida and south Florida by more than 11 percent during the past year, coupled with similar declines in 2001," Reynolds said. "These declines are in sharp contrast to the increases we recorded in the 1999 and 2000 surveys."

Julie Young, an agricultural appraiser with Armfield and Wagner in Vero Beach, said the drop in value of citrus land during the past two years can be attributed to the decrease in prices growers received for their fruit, along with the threat of disease problems such as canker and tristeza.

Reynolds said the value of orange groves declined by 11.2 percent in south Florida and 11.4 percent in central Florida during the past year. The value of grapefruit groves declined 15.6 percent in the southern region and 14.8 percent in the cental region. The value of land with five to seven-year-old citrus plantings decreased by 8.8 percent in the south and 2.4 percent in the central region.

The average value of orange groves was $5,687 per acre in the south, about $250 per acre higher than in the central region. The estimated value of grapefruit groves at $3,658 per acre in the south, is about $44 per acre higher than in the central region. The average value of land with five to seven-year-old citrus plantings was $5,211 per acre in the south — $543 per acre higher than in the central region.

The annual survey, which Reynolds started in 1985, was compiled from more than 190 respondents around the state. Respondents included property appraisers, farm lenders, real estate brokers, farm managers, land investors, federal farm-assistance and conservation staff, UF Extension agents and others who develop and maintain information about rural land values.

Reynolds divides the state into four regions: south, central, northeast and northwest. He also collects data for southeast Florida — Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties — because of the impact of urbanization on agricultural land values in the region.

Transition land — acreage that has been converted from agricultural use to development‚ has seen its value climb steadily, especially near big cities, Reynolds said. "Florida’s rapid urban growth is converting large tracts of agricultural land into home sites and commercial development," Reynolds said. "For the third year, the value of transition land was three times higher in southeast Florida than in other regions of the state.

The values for transition land in metropolitan counties in other regions of the state were about twice the value of transition land in non-metropolitan counties.

Within five miles of a major city in metropolitan counties, the value of transition land increased 6 percent in northern areas of the state and 8 percent to 13 percent in the southern regions. The value of transition land within five miles of a major city ranged from $11,646 to $14,134 per acre, except in southeast Florida, where values were $45,000 per acre.

Transition land more than five miles from a major city in metropolitan counties ranged from $6,280 to $8,923 per acre. In southeast Florida the average value was $28,333 per acre.

In non-metropolitan counties, the value of transition land within five miles of a major town ranged from $4,107 to $5,931 per acre, while the value of transition land more than five miles from a major town ranged from $3,234 to $3,950 per acre.

The 200 Florida Land Value Survey also shows:

o The value of irrigated cropland increased 8 percent to 9 percent in the central and south regions, and posted 11 percent and 12 percent gains in the northeast and northwest regions. The value of non-irrigated cropland increased 7.6 percent in the northwest and 13.1 percent in the south regions. The value of non-irrigated cropland increased 8.7 percent in the central region and 10.8 percent in the northeast.

o The value of pastureland increased in all regions of the state. Improved pasture values increased by 11 percent to 12 percent in the southern region and 9 percent to 10 percent in the northern region. The value of unimproved pasture increased 15 percent in the south, 11 percent to 12 percent in the central and northeast regions and 7 percent in the northwest.

o The value of farm woods increased 10.1 percent in the northeast and 9.3 percent in the northwest regions.

o The average value of citrus land was higher in the southern region than in the central region. The value of irrigated land and unimproved pasture was higher in the northeast than in other regions. However, the value of other types of agricultural land was higher in the central region than it was in other regions.

o The lowest agricultural values reported were in the northwest region.

o More than three-fifths of survey respondents expect agricultural land values to increase during the next year. Only 2 percent of respondents in the northern region and 10 percent in the southern region expected lower land values. Average land values are expected to increase from 3 percent to 6.1 percent across the state, except in the southeast, where values are expected to increase by 14.4 percent.