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Tree chilling slows over holidays

While the temperatures have been nice for the last few weeks, they haven’t been very conducive for peach chilling.

As of Thursday, the Chilton Research and Extension Center in Thorsby has calculated 473 chill hours. While that number is much further ahead than last year (328 hours), it isn’t much more than it was three weeks ago.

As of Dec. 11, horticulturalist Bobby Boozer had calculated that the peach trees had only recorded between 435 and 440 hours.

“Some of the trees that we have are getting close to the total amount of chill hours that they need, so we are having to keep a close eye on the weather now because the next threat we have will be the trees blooming early,” Boozer said that day.

One variety has already made its chilling goal, but the majority of all the peaches haven’t made their proper chilling goal.

Extension Superintendent Jim Pitts said they would like to see as many as 1,000 chill hours, which would be enough for most of Chilton County’s orchard.

“We don’t want to get a whole lot of chilling early. We like it to built up gradually,” Pitts said earlier this season.

The Fairview station in southern Chilton County has recorded 443 hours as of Dec. 26.

Chill hours are the number of hours that the air temperature is below 45 degrees. They are counted from November to Feb. 15.

The chill hour situation is not expected to improve much over the next few days. The temperature isn’t expected to drop below 45 until Tuesday night when the projected low temperature is 42.

Beginning Wednesday, however, temperatures could drop below that mark as a cold front is expected to move through and bring highs and lows closer to normal.