Freeze Damage in Peaches Becoming Evident
Two late freezes, one in late March, the other in early April damaged the North Carolina peach crop, but it’s taken a while to have a clear picture of the damage says Mike Parker, Tree Fruit Extension Specialist:
“We had damage when we looked at the blossoms shortly after the events that we had, we knew there was damage we just did not know the extent of it. at this point and time, we have a pretty good feel for what our crop will be looking like.”
Parker says that while freeze damage is significant, it is inconsistent, not only in any given area, but even within an individual orchard:
“We have seen a significant reduction in yields across the state, trying to put numbers to it is very difficult, even in an orchard, it’s hard to get an estimate is because some trees will have fruit, others won’t.
The problem with the freezes is that it was the perfect storm, if you will, it hit the peaches when our crop was at its most vulnerable. Where we get temperatures at 30-31 degrees will cause significant damage, and that’s what we’re looking at.
We look at a tree now, we look at peach trees, we may have fruit that will be an inch and a half in diameter, we may have fruit that is an inch in diameter, and we may just have some small, little ones that were damaged just as they came out of the blossom, realizing that the only ones that will be viable will be the full-size fruit that are actively growing, now.”
In years past when a late freeze occurred, it was usually the early maturing varieties that were damaged. Parker says this year, that’s not necessarily the case:
“In many cases, we would assume that, but that isn’t the case this year. Peaches in the past that have come through are later season, or higher chilling varieties, like China Pearl, or Contender. We are seeing just as much damage on those, as we are others. Really has to do with the stage of the specific blossoms on the trees. And that’s going to vary from grower to grower, it even varies within the orchard. We see some parts of the orchard that have fruit, other areas that don’t, of a particular variety.
This year most of our earlier season peaches have been damaged, probably heavier, but even some of the later season ones have been damaged, in some orchards.”
Parker says many growers used wind machines successfully:
“In North Carolina when we lose our peach crop in the spring, it’s usually the difference in three, or four degrees, between a full crop, and no crop. Many growers are using wind machines, and wind machines in an orchard are tall fans, 33 feet tall, they spin round and round during an event. What they do is suck the air from higher up, the inversion layer, and bring that down into the orchard. If they were used this year, and they could pick up two or three degrees of protection, chances are they have a very good crop, compared where they did not use the machines.”
And apples. The state’s apple crop was also affected by those late freezes says Parker:
“The apples…at the same events, the first night, I think it was March 31st, that got the peaches, the second event, April 6th, I think it was, is what really hurt the apples. The apples were two weeks ahead, they were just going into king bloom, the first blossoms. When we talked about three weeks ago, I was very concerned about the status of the crop. When I’ve talked to North Carolina growers, and the growers are saying every time they go into the orchard they’re more encouraged. You don’t see that very often. We will have a significant crop of apples this year.”
Extension tree fruit specialist Mike Parker.