Once the peaches start to bloom, they enter their most vulnerable state.
Peach crops starting to bloom in Chilton County.
CHILTON CO., AL (WSFA) -
A week after a cold spell that hit Alabama, peach farmers in Chilton County are assessing the damage.
"We took a pretty good hit, It surprised us. There's more damage to trees in lower elevations and the early-blooming varieties were hit harder," said Jim Pitts, director of Chilton County research extension center. "We've cut 20-30 percent of live buds from the trees because they were damaged. And there's always some cold damage to the seed that you can't see, so there's still some unseen impact."
Pitts also added, "Overall we're still going to have a good peach crop this year. The supply for shoppers may be lower than usual from mid-May to late-June because that's when fruit from the early maturing trees is usually available. But there should be an ample supply of peaches by July 4, the way things look now."
The temperatures dropped to 27 degrees at the research station, and the wind died down which created more problems than originally anticipated.
Some Chilton County farmers were able to avoid any losses from the cold spell.
"On our farm the crop is in perfect shape," said Jimmie Harrison, Chilton County peach producer. "We've had a perfect winter and came through the cold snap last week with minimal damage. We've got an excellent peach crop coming on."
In any case, all farmers had to prepare for the cold, and take extensive measures to reduce any chances of losing crops.
Chilton County peach grower Andy Millard has seen a number of these late season freezes over the years. He says the number one lesson he's learned is to be prepared. "We start in the winter time thinking about what would we do if we do get a late freeze. We save all our clippings, use the brush piles to burn, we also keep on standby coal. We can put piles of coal through the orchard and we can burn those," the farmer says.
This was the first time in at least three years Mountain View Orchards had to worry about late season freezes. "We actually didn't get enough chilling, so it was a warmer season the last two seasons."
Millard says he's been fortunate to never lose an entire crop.