Georgia Peaches Impacted by Late Cold Snap

Griffin, GA

While California might be the largest producer, no other state in the country is more synonymous with peaches than Georgia. However, it’s been a trying year for growers as a late freeze has caused some of the worst conditions in more than a decade.

“The thing that made this one a little bit rougher than last year was that we were about ten days earlier in our bloom, in our status if the crop,” says Jeff Cook, UGA County Extension Coordinator. “The warm February pushed everything to start blooming and start moving a whole lot earlier than normal.”

It’s a problem farmers had to deal with last year as well, but to a much lesser extent.

“I would say last year we had about a sixty percent crop, which was a good sixty percent once it developed. This year, I would say it kind of flip flopped. We’re probably looking at forty percent and it’s still a little early, but the damage is a lot easier to see riding through orchards right now than it was last year,” says Cook.

One of the silver linings is that quality shouldn’t be affected as despite the warmer that average winter, the crop did receive the proper number of chill hours and the damaged fruit won’t even make it to the shelves.

“It shouldn’t because what got zapped, got zapped. So, it won’t be in the market. It wasn’t like it was slightly damaged and you’ll have some fruit quality issues. The fruit that’s left, if we have decent weather from here on out should be good, quality fruit,” says Cook. “We were a little bit short on some of our higher chill varieties; we were right around seven hundred fifty hours of chill if you look at just chill hours, not chill proportions, or units. So, we were just a little bit under chilled on some things, but most everything was coming out normally. Some are a little slower, but for the most part it, it satisfied what we have in middle Georgia.”

That does mean consumers might have to wait a little longer to buy sweet, Georgia peaches and pay a little more for them.

“I mean, it’s really fewer peaches across the Southeast, probably. It’s just going to mean higher prices probably and it’s going to mean you’re going to have to wait a little while longer to get peaches. When I was in Brooks County, they should be harvesting pretty soon. So, you know, you may have to drive south to go get your early peaches if you want some early peaches. Hopefully we can hang on and have late June or early July peaches still in Georgia,” says Cook.

With late freezes being a constant threat to the producers, UGA is working on some alternative growing methods to mitigate some of the risk.

“We might do a few things a little bit differently, trying to minimize any mid-March freezes,” says Cook. “We’ve been working on different things and some different production practices that help mitigate that; leave more limbs, leave more flowers, more fruit. Maybe even pruning a little later, but they’ll just continue; we’ll take care of the trees from here on out and take care of the crop we have left.

By: Damon Jones