By Clint Thompson
At least another month remains in this year’s peach harvest season for Georgia producers. Amid the current hot and dry weather, conditions have been ripe for minimal disease pressure.
Phil Brannen, University of Georgia Extension fruit disease specialist, discusses the positive and negative impact that the prolonged drought is having on this year’s peach harvest.
“For a plant pathologist, it’s kind of boring in peach production right now. There are some diseases out there, but it’s very minimal by comparison to the past few years really. The issue with peaches, disease wise, is pretty minimal. We’re not seeing a lot of brown rot, virtually no scab whatsoever. There’s a little bit of bacterial spot here and there but very minimal. From the standpoint of diseases on peaches, this kind of weather is ideal,” Brannen said.
“But the same thing applies to peaches as it does to grapes in that you do need water as well on a peach tree. The bigger issue is not just the health of the tree, but you need some water to expand the fruit. Our peach fruit sales are based on size to a large degree; size and color. That will dictate the value of the peach. People like large, really, brilliant red peaches. If you don’t have enough water in particular, you can not produce a larger peach.”
Most of Georgia is now classified as moderately dry, though nearly all of the state is at least abnormally dry, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The moderately dry conditions stretch as far south as Mitchell, Colquitt and Cook counties and moves northward to Fannin and Whitfield counties.
Brannen said growers are using drip irrigation on their peaches to protect against the dry conditions.
“If they have the ability to apply the moisture they need under the canopy, they’re in good shape. It costs them more to run that drip but as far as producing a quality fruit, this is great. We’re in good shape with peaches,” Brannen added.