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Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 10:30am

Peach Crop Weathering Chill

The recent below-freezing temperatures stretching into central Georgia’s peach country have left the crops largely unscathed so far this year.

Earlier this winter, it looked like the state’s peach crop might arrive early. With the last month of cold air, though, it’s looking more like peaches will be a little late.

Most of the state’s peaches come from central Georgia, and despite temperatures dipping into the 20s in recent weeks, growers there are still expecting a full crop.

Peaches need a certain number of hours below 45 degrees as they’re growing. This late-winter cold snap has worked out well, according to Bill McGehee with Genuine Georgia Company, which handles the sales and marketing for Pearson’s Farm in Fort Valley.

“When you cool down from the middle of February on, you didn’t stop the bloom, you just delayed it. So that allows you to withstand some frost that you may not have had you been further advanced,” McGehee said.

He said the partially closed blooms help insulate the crop from the cold nights. But he’s hoping for spring weather after this most-recent cold snap.

“If you put a few warm days on a crop that’s got a lot of chill, they’ll bloom real fast, and that will set you up for a killing frost that may come later to a very tender bloom,” McGehee said.

He said the cold temperatures themselves are not a threat to the fruit.

Last year, Georgia peach growers didn’t have a full crop because of drought and a mild winter, but they still sold about $31 million worth.

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