Peach crop off to a running start thanks to winter cold

EDGEFIELD COUNTY, SC (WFXG) - Spring is in the air but the cold weather this winter has done some good. It's exactly what some crops need to get a jump start for spring.

"It's the amount of hours that are below 45 degrees and the reason that's important is that plants need a level of dormancy, which is below that temperature, to be able to build up its reserves and be able to put out and flower and fruit come spring time," explained Campbell Vaughn, UGA Cooperative Extension agent in Richmond County, about chilling hours.

Peach trees and most flowering plants depend on a certain amount of chilling hours. Peaches need between 800 and 1100 chilling hours.
Vaughn says we've seen nearly 1200 chilling hours this winter. But many varieties of peaches are blooming a few weeks ahead of schedule, and that could spell trouble down the road.

The CSRA can see a frost or freeze as late as early April so the hope is that the weather stays warm.

A hard freeze with temperatures below 28 degrees kills the blooms, and the trees do not bear fruit. A late freeze caused problems with the 2017 peach crop.

"The peach trees put out and then we just had a devastating cold," explained Vaughn. "It got down to 22 degrees about March 15th. I called it the Ides of March so it was kind of hard on that."

It's estimated that some farmers lost 80 to 85-percent of their peach crop in 2017. They're hoping there is not a repeat in 2018.

If we can avoid a late freeze, Vaughn said this year's peach crop should be a good one.

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