Georgia Peach Producer: We’re Racking Up Chill Hours

Jim Rogers Georgia, Peaches, Weather

By Clint Thompson

Cold January temperatures have brought increased chilling hours for Georgia’s peach crop. Growers like Drew Echols, owner of Jaemor Farms and president of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, are elated about the recent cooler temperatures being felt throughout the state.

“All the peach growers, we’re pretty excited. Chill hours, that’s been the question mark for the past few years. Man, we’re wracking them up here in northeast Georgia, for sure,” Echols said. “We may even be ahead of schedule a little bit, which is fine. It’s been really cold, not like moderately cold but really cold. It just keeps these trees shut down. I’ve talked to several of those guys in middle Georgia, and we’re pretty optimistic about this. We’ve got more than we’ve had going into February for a while. We’re just really happy about it.

Chill Hours

“There’s so many problems with not getting enough. If you don’t get anywhere close to enough, then you’re just not going to get the bloom.”

Peaches need chill hours to mature. The required chill hours depend on the peach variety. Some may require as little as 500, while others may need as many 800. According to University of Georgia Extension, fruit trees require a certain number of hours below 45 degrees Fahrenheit to break down growth inhibitors in buds. This allows them to produce fruit in the spring.

“It’s one less worry for us. There are enough problems out there. I think at this point we’re just looking towards spring freezes where the past few years, we’ve been sitting here saying, ‘Are we going to get enough (chilling) hours?’ We’re on track to rack up the hours. That’s going to be a non-issue there. We don’t have to sweat it this year,” Echols added.