2024 Peach Harvest More Crucial Than Ever

Byron, GA |

Typically, this is the scene at peach processing plants across Georgia in May, as the state is responsible for more than one hundred and thirty million pounds of peaches each year. However, that was not the case in 2023, as a late freeze cut that number by more than ninety percent. That makes this year’s crop more important than ever, and so far, Mother Nature has cooperated.

“It’s a very important year. Hopefully years like last year is extremely rare. It was thirty years before that since we had such a drastic peach crop, but hopefully this year, so far so good. The weather’s been good and let’s just hope that continues. In terms of chill this year, we’re pretty close to 800 hours and looking at some other models, dynamic models, the equivalency is even more than that. So, we’re pretty happy so far. Right now, we just want it to stay cool and not have a lot of hot weather and force those blooms out because once it warms up, the trees will be blooming,” says Lee Dickey, Vice President of Dickey Farms.

However, that is not the main concern right now, as the process of pruning these trees is officially underway. And while it might be an overlooked step in the process, it’s no less important as it paves the way for a successful crop.

“You want to have plenty of space. One is sunlight. You want to cut out some of the limbs that are in the middle to allow for the sunlight to come in. Some of it is just dead wood that’s in the way, it’s problematic, also the shape of the tree, you don’t want the peaches too high or too low, so when you do come in and harvest, it’s efficient. So, it’s really kind of the best and most efficient way to kind of shape that tree and to eliminate some of the excess wood and peaches on that tree,” says Dickey.

That job is even more difficult this year as the lack of peach growth last season has resulted in some early challenges.

“It wasn’t a big crop of peaches so a lot of that growth went into the tree. So, probably a little bit more wood on the tree than maybe you would want, so a little bit bigger pruning job this year but overall, the trees look healthy and looking forward to this crop year,” says Dickey.

Pruning is just the first of many steps involved with producing the state’s signature fruit. And the majority of those are done before the buds even start to bloom.

“From basically the beginning of the year up until harvest, tremendous amount of activity. We’re out here, we’re pruning the trees, getting them ready to soon fertilize, some probably in the next three weeks to a month. Then thinning will start and that will be your biggest pre harvest expense. So, when the trees are maybe between the size of a nickel and a quarter, you’ll come out and remove those excess peaches. Maybe there’s eight hundred or a thousand little, tiny peaches on the tree and maybe you want three or four hundred on the tree. So, you’re really reducing a significant amount of the peaches on the tree so that the ones that remain will size and be large, and that’s what the consumers are looking for,” says Dickey.

By: Damon Jones