Peach crop weathers storms

Published 5:09 pm Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Chilton County’s peach crop dodged another bullet as it escaped last week’s storms with little to no damage.

The storms, among the deadliest ever in Alabama, produced a small tornado locally, near Verbena, but Bobby Boozer, horticulturalist with the Chilton Research and Extension Center, said the county’s peach trees emerged unscathed.

“I have no reports of damage,” Boozer said. “It looks like everything is in good shape.”

Boozer said that at this stage of the fruit’s life, heavy winds usually aren’t a threat to knock fruit off trees but can break limbs overloaded with fruit.

The only damage so far to the crop came in the form of heavy hail south of Clanton in late March.

Growers are close to completing the process of thinning the trees, where excess fruit is knocked off the trees so what remains can grow larger.

Some peaches are beginning to show color, a step that Boozer said means some of the fruit is probably about two weeks away from being ready to pick and sell.

A good amount of rain has fallen recently, but cooler temperatures overnight Tuesday and Wednesday may slow down the process somewhat, but Boozer said local peaches—probably including the Rich May, Spring Prince and Sun Bright varieties—should be in markets by about May 20.

“All in all, it looks like a good start to the season so far,” Boozer said.