Peach crop expected to be low this year

Published 11:43 am Wednesday, May 24, 2017

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Chilton County peaches are being harvested, but will not be as prevalent this year as they have been in the past.

Jim Pitts of the Chilton Research and Extension Center said the verdict is still out on how many of the peaches that ripen will be of high enough quality to sell.

A warm winter has left many peach trees without the needed chill hours to develop to fruit properly.

While it is not always the case that trees requiring fewer chill hours are the first ready for harvest, Pitts said that has been the case this year.

“The ones that have 750 chill hours are the ones we are going to see this year,” Pitts said.

Pitts said initial reports from local orchards have some losing 40 percent or more of their peach crop.

“There won’t be many peaches we will pick after July 4,” Pitts said.

Any peach variety requiring 800 chill hours or more likely will not be seen this year. However, Pitts said there are a number of variables in every orchard that impact a peach’s development. Some orchards still have some of the varieties needing more chill hours, while some of the varieties needing fewer hours are not doing as well as expected.

“We are going to have farmers that can’t make what they need to make this summer … Some of these orchards are going to have to be pushed up and replanted,” Pitts said.

This is the second year in the row Chilton County has had a warm winter. Pitts said stress on the trees related to the weather can cause disease to set in. He estimated it could be three to four years before orchards get back to peak performance if this happens.

This year some peach growers tried using a spray that is said to help the tree develop peaches as if it had the needed amount of chill hours. Pitts said some have had success with it, but the product has not been tested by the Research and Extension Center enough for him to make a definitive conclusion.