Chill Effect: Cold Temperatures Impact North Alabama Crops

Clint Thompson Alabama, Peaches, Top Posts

Cold temperatures provided a scare for vegetable and fruit producers in north Alabama last weekend. They were especially concerning for peach farmers, said Eric Schavey, Alabama Regional Extension agent in Northeast Alabama.

File photo shows blooming peach trees.

“We’re probably taking a little bit of a hit. But growers often leave more than they should at times. Maybe it’s just a little natural thinning, because we haven’t done our thinning yet,” Schavey said. “We like to thin them when they’re like grape size. Now it’ll be a little selective there on your thinning. In the past I’ve had these peach growers talk about these freezes and they think, ‘Man, I’m not going to have anything.’ It ends up being one of their best peach production years because it did thin a lot of peaches off their tree. It put all of that energy into the ones that are viable there.”

Schavey is optimistic largely because the outcome could have been a lot worse. There was plenty of wind during last weekend’s cold snap. Schavey believes the wind held some of the frost back in various places.

“Frost didn’t start laying until around 5 a.m. We only had a brief window of that frost being on there before we started getting that radiant heat from the sun melting it,” Schavey said.

North Alabama Temperatures

Schavey is based in northeast Alabama and is responsible for Blount County, Cherokee County, Cullman County, DeKalb County, Etowah County, Jackson County, Madison County and Marshall County. He said temperatures dropped as low as 26 degrees Fahrenheit in Valley Head, north of Fort Payne.

Cold temperatures impacted some other crops in north Alabama as well.

“Strawberries, not as bad, we still had row covers and everything on. Plums took a big hit. A lot of our plums were in full bloom. They’ve taken a big hit on that,” Schavey said. “Some of our high tunnel producers that had some tomatoes out already are seeing a little bit of cold damage. Mainly that’s due from their high tunnels not being as tight, air flow wise, as they did when they closed it down.”