Peaches weather summer storms

Published 11:41 am Friday, June 13, 2008

Thunderstorms have both helped and hurt this year’s Chilton County peach crop, depending on the amount of rain in each orchard or the lack thereof.

The isolation of the storms has left some areas with plenty of rain but has caused other places to be skipped over. The latter encompasses Fairview and areas south, down to Enterprise and Billingsley.

Hail damage has fortunately been limited to small pockets, but hail coupled with the threat of continued rain increases the concern for disease.

“Not only can it scar the fruit, but if rainfall persists it makes the crop a little more vulnerable to disease pressure,” said area horticulturalist Bobby Boozer of the Chilton Research and Extension Center.

While growers would love to have more widespread rain, they would prefer not to have the hail, Boozer added.

The upside of this year’s increased precipitation is a good quality crop with larger size fruits, although the March freeze caused excess thinning in some places.

“There have been little ups and downs in the amount of fruit available,” Boozer said, although he admitted the situation for most growers is more favorable this year than last year.

As the crop moves toward the freestone varieties, some people might notice fruits with a “split pit,” resulting in an oddly shaped fruit that is less round and more like a figure eight. This, Boozer says, is an effect from last year’s drought.

Meanwhile, the pest problem has been light to moderate across the county, as insects have moved from dry, grassy areas bordering orchards to the orchards themselves.

“There has been a minimal amount of brown rot, but more stinkbugs,” Boozer said.

The Extension is spraying their peaches about every 10 to 14 days to ward off the problem.