Early bloom of peaches causes growers to be wary of freeze

  • Posted: Friday, February 3, 2012 12:01 a.m.
    UPDATED: Friday, February 3, 2012 8:30 p.m.

Some peach trees have already begun to bloom as a result of the unseasonably warm winter days, which means a hard freeze could severely damage the peach crop.Cold Creek Nurseries Manager Alan Maclay said peach trees are dormant and resistant to the cold temperatures, but once they start to bloom, a freeze can be devastating.Cool temperatures before trees bloom do not negatively impact the peaches.As a grower, there is a greater concern that there aren't enough •chilling hours,• which is an accumulation of hours with temperatures below 45 degrees. The hours don't have to be consecutive.In 2007, an April freeze ravaged most of the peaches in the southeastern part of the country.Once peaches have begun responding to warmer temperatures, they can't go backward, and freezing temperatures after the buds have opened would likely result in the loss of the fruit.Maclay said there are techniques that growers can use to lessen the impact the freeze may have, such as circulating the air, but there is only so much a grower can do.Wind machines are sometimes used to bring the warmer air down to the crop level to replace the cold air layer at the surface.Maclay said the number of necessary chill hours varies a great deal but said early February is •very early• to bloom.Lows are expected to dip below 45 degrees early next week.Although forecasters are calling for highs in the 60s well into next week, lows will hover in the low 40s and even dip into the 30s Monday.Expect showers this weekend and partly cloudy skies early next week.Anna Dolianitis contributed to this article.

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