NC Peach Crop Wrapping Up

North Carolina’s peach growers are wrapping up one of the more challenging seasons they’ve had according to Mike Parker, Tree Fruit Extension Specialist with NC State:

“It was a very challenging year for the peach growers, especially in the Sandhills where we had some early season frost and crop loss. Many of our early blooming and maturing varieties were hit with significant frost injury. About the first third of the season was significantly reduced from frost and freeze. There was a pretty good crop with the rest of the varieties, though they picked out a little short. The rain created all kinds of problems, trying to control disease, trying to get size up and flavor. But overall, it would have been an average season.”

The wet early summer conditions experienced in the state weren’t as much of a problem for peach growers as the lack of sun and heat explains Parker:
 

“The rain is always good. When peaches grow the last three weeks of the season, the peach can put on 50-60% of its size. However, the cloudy weather really affects the quality of the peach because it dilutes the sugars out and we don’t get the nice flavor. It was more of a problem for earlier season varieties.”

As to volume, Parker says that was off, too:
 

“The growers will refer to it as picking short. They have an expected crop and when they start picking them, they just don’t get the volume or tonnage they were expecting.”

Historically, the Sandhills region of North Carolina has been home to most of the state’s peach orchards, but that’s changing explains Parker:
“Historically the Sandhills region has been the Peach Capital of NC. But now we have peaches grown across the state from the coast to the lower mountains. The most peach trees being planted now are south of Asheville. Those areas didn’t have as much of an issue with the early frost or freeze damage, but they did have the problem with excessive rain.”

While NC grown peaches are plentiful, in the big scheme of things, the state’s average peach orchard is relatively small:
 

“In Georgia, some of the growers have 3-4000 acres, and in SC they have about 1000. In NC our average orchards are 50-80 for the large ones”


In 2011, the last year in which numbers are available, NC produced 5300 pounds of peaches.
 


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