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Peach crop withstanding freezing temperatures so far

POSTED: March 26, 2013 12:43 a.m.

Drew Echols inspects the blooms in Jaemor Farms' peach orchards on a chilly Monday morning. The hard freeze in this week's forecast may keep Echols and other farmers anxious about this season's peach crop.

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Freezing temperatures may be putting a damper on your Easter egg hunt, but fear not, the peach crop is doing OK — at least so far.

Drew Echols, Jaemor Farms manager, said some early varieties are blooming, but even if a freeze this week killed all the open blooms at the Alto farm, they’d still be in great shape.

“Is it ideal? No. But it works,” he said. “If we lost all the open blooms right now, we would still have a full 100 percent crop of peaches, it’s just the fact that we’ve got a little bit less of a cushion going into the next three weeks, and really we’ve got to worry about the next three weeks.”

He said the farm is at about 25 percent bloom now, with varieties like Flavorich, Ruby Prince and Rich Lady coming out first among the farm’s 25 varieties.

That’s right on schedule, he said, unlike last year where everything was blooming early.

“You want things to be on their normal schedule,” Echols said.

Though they picked more peaches than normal this past season, those peaches were smaller.

And when the season starts earlier, it ends earlier, too, which isn’t good for Jaemor.

“One of our bread-and-butter tickets is that we always run later than everybody else in the state of Georgia,” he said.

“So a lot of your profit’s made on the tail end of the crop. So with them finishing up earlier, that’s not necessarily a good thing.”

That leaves him more optimistic about this year’s crop than last.

The concern for now is what may happen if the wind dies down.

Michael Wheeler, county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension in Hall County, said that’s what can cause problems for plants.

“When the wind stops, that’s when the cold can really settle in, because cold air sinks, and that’s when we get more of a freeze on plants,” he said.

Many orchards, like Jaemor, use wind machines to prevent that problem, he added.

“You just do what you can do. Do we really ultimately affect the outcome? I don’t know,” Echols said with a laugh.

“It’s in God’s hands.”

Wheeler said effects also depend on just how cold it gets and how long it stays that cold.

Many plants can withstand 32-, even 30-degree temperatures, but if it gets much lower, there could be issues.

Concerned homeowners can cover their plants with a cotton sheet; of course that only works if the wind dies down, Wheeler said.


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