Freeze damages 25 percent

Published 9:06 pm Thursday, April 16, 2009

Chilton County Research and Extension Center horticulturalist Bobby Boozer estimated freezing temperatures the night of April 7 damaged about 25 percent of the county’s peach crop.

But that number doesn’t tell the whole story.

“Really and truly, considering the past couple of years, we’re in pretty good shape,” Boozer said. “Some folks will have 50 to 75 percent losses, but that 25 percent is the county as a whole.”

The temperature was below freezing for 6-8 hours, Boozer said, and temperatures ranged from 26 degrees to 33 degrees.

Ironically, another problem for county peaches could turn out to be that they did not receive enough cold weather. Some varieties, such as Cresthaven and Ruby Prince, need as many as 1,000 chill hours, which are hours the temperature is below 45 degrees.

A total of 994 hours have been recorded, but the problem is that many of those hours featured temperatures below freezing, which aren’t as productive for the peaches. So instead of the ideal of consistent and mild cold weather, we’ve seen pockets of bitterly cold weather mixed with unseasonably warm weather.

Another problem is too much cloudy, wet weather.

“We’ve got a lot of varieties that just aren’t getting the optimum conditions they need,” Boozer said. “We just need a little bit of sunshine and a little bit of drying out.”