2009 peach crop in good shape

Published 9:21 pm Friday, February 6, 2009

In a year that has seen many people receive chilling financial news, Chilton County peach farmers actually have chilling news of their own, and it’s good news.

Peach trees in Chilton County have actually received at least 948 dormant hours, according to Chilton Research and Extension Center horticulturalist Bobby Boozer. That number is 180 hours more than the same time last year, and the number still has a few more days to grow.

“We’re really set up to have a good year right now,” Boozer said.

During the winter, peach trees must receive a certain amount of hours with temperatures below 45 degrees to ensure the trees bloom and produce leaves properly during the spring. Currently, all but one variety has received the proper number of chill hours.

Boozer said some of the lower chill hour trees have had some early movement, meaning they are more vulnerable to extreme cold.

“When you get movement in the peach trees, that means they are more sensitive to freezes,” Boozer said. “The further along the trees are, the higher temperature at which it causes damage to the crop.”

Boozer anticipates that the peach trees should bloom closer to a normal time, which is between March 10 and March 15. He also said the blooms should be much more pink than they were last year.

“Because we didn’t get as much chilling, the tree’s leaf and blood development was behind,” he said. “This year, the blooms should be much more uniform.”

Though things are looking good right now, peach farmers aren’t out of the woods yet as far as cold weather. In 2007, farmers were anticipating a bumper crop as everything was looking good, but a severe freeze on Easter weekend damaged more than half of the potential crop.

At this time, Boozer said there is nothing farmers can do to prepare for the possibility of an event other than making sure they have good contacts for people to call when one is predicted.

“No one knows what is going to happen with the weather,” he said. “We just hope we can get through March and the first part of April without a major freeze.”