Peach Crop Survives First Freeze
Sandhills peach growers kept an uneasy eye on the thermometer in the wee hours Tuesday but emerged with guarded optimism.
Temperatures hovered at the 29- to 30-degree level Tuesday morning and prompted Eagle Springs grower Ken Chappell to stay up all night operating wind machines to maintain air circulation in his orchards.
"Peaches are fine," Chappell said later Tuesday morning.
Nevertheless, he admitted that the low temperatures had him worried and that he is still very concerned.
West End peach grower Watts Auman expressed similar concern but reserved his optimism for later in the day.
Both Auman and Chappell said their trees bloomed at least one week earlier than normal this spring.
After a severely cold January, an early warm spell in March has encouraged early blossoming of many plants.
Chappell said peach trees are now in what is known as the "petal fall" stage, a period when petals leave to make way for tiny peaches to begin forming. He said a little bit of the petal shuck remains on most trees.
Auman said the shuck and the few remaining petals provide some protection against severe temperatures during this delicate time in development of the young fruit.
Chappell said temperatures would have to drop much lower and remain low for a longer period for severe damage to occur in the peach crop at this stage of development.
However, the growers agreed that crop safety won't be a sure thing until their trees survive the uncertain weather conditions of April.
The crop has been wiped out or severely damaged in years past from early spring freezes.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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