Peach Trees on the Ridge in Bloom


As if growing peaches isn’t challenging enough, this year’s winter weather has been somewhat elusive, and the current warm streak is causing South Carolina’s commercial peach growers some concern.  Greg Henderson, Commercial Horticulture Agent with Clemson University, based in Edgefield, SC:

“We’ve experienced pretty much identical weather conditions leading up to this time as year, where we’ve had less than ideal accumulation of chill hours.  Unlike last year, when we were seasonably cool, we’re way to warm right now, I feel like we’re at least three weeks ahead of our normal crop progress.”

Henderson says the mid-season varieties could be hit the hardest by the lack of cold weather:

“One that really jumps out there is Kara Red, and I’m comfortable saying, that we’ve got some blocks, and it varies, depending on the elevation of our growing region, and it’s very confined, that we have 60% bloom on some of these blocks of that variety.  We don’t need to be at full bloom or even open flower to have cold injury on these.  So, everything is moving, and moving means that dormancy has ceased, and warm weather is progressing each day with further movement.  So, it’s very concerning at this time.”

As far as chilling hours accumulated this year, it’s not bad, but not great, either says Henderson:

“Well, our production season lasts here from mid-May until mid-September, and the chill hour range for those, and it’s not dependant on the lower chill crop first, and the higher chill crop late, I mean, that’s a good analogy to make.  But, we run from requiring 650 hours to 1050 hours, and we’re comfortably sitting somewhere shy of mid-range of that.  We’re probably in that 800 hour range right now.”

Henderson says this season is looking remarkably similar to last:

“We will have some issues similar to what we had last year, where we still had a crop, but there were some holes in that crop.  And that’s still yet to be determined as to how this season plays out.  Because, we got a huge amount of chill early, unlike last year, so it’s really a learning phase.  And these types of things can’t be duplicated in an experiment.”

Henderson had these thoughts:

“It’s a long time before Easter, a lot of things can happen, so I just look forward to as productive a season as we can manage to have given the conditions that the environment is giving us at the present time.”

Commercial Horticulture Agent with Clemson University, Greg Henderson

A native of the Texas Panhandle, Rhonda was born and raised on a cotton farm where she saw cotton farming evolve from ditch irrigation to center pivot irrigation and harvest trailers to modules. After graduating from Texas Tech University, she got her start in radio with KGNC News Talk 710 in Amarillo, Texas.