By Clint Thompson
Peach lovers already know there will be slim pickings with this year’s crop. Unfortunately, that equates to about 5% in middle Georgia, estimates Jeff Cook, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agriculture and natural resources agent for Peach and Taylor counties.
“We really don’t have anything to harvest. If we have peaches, they’re going to be mid-June to mid-July, probably. I would say that most of them are already spoken for. Honestly, we probably have about 5% of our crop left,” Cook said. “I’ve got 10,000-plus acres of peaches in the counties that I work in, and I’ve seen a peach sprayer running three times. Normally, it’s like everywhere you go, you’ve got sprayers going to protect the crop. There’s nothing to protect.
“Those two March freezes, we were 25 degrees (Fahrenheit) on the 16th and 28 degrees (F) on the 21st. Then we had one of the heavier frosts I’ve ever seen on the 22nd. We were about 10 days ahead of schedule on our early-to-mid-season stuff. It was very advanced compared to other years.”
The advanced stage made the trees vulnerable to sub-freezing temperatures. It was advanced due to an unseasonably warm February. Blooms were set much earlier than normal, which left the trees susceptible to cold injury.
“If February would not have been that warm, we would have been fine with those cold events. We would have gotten some damage like we normally do, but we would not have gotten that catastrophic damage,” Cook said. “I tell everybody that a warm February is good for nothing. You can’t change anything that you do, because you’re always going to have some cold snaps in March. You can’t open your pool early, because it’s still going to be cold. You can’t plant stuff early, because you’re going to have cold.”