South Carolina peach, berry crops thrive in pleasant spring
Peach trees and berry plants seem to enjoy the pretty spring weather in the Upstate every bit as much as the rest of us.
"We've been really fortunate lately as far as the weather is concerned with fruit and berry crops," said Andy Rollins, a Clemson Extension agent in Spartanburg County who specializes in commercial fruit and vegetables.
"Things look pretty good right now for peaches and strawberries," Rollins said. "But we dodged a bullet with the weather last month. Honestly, I can't explain it scientifically."
Rollins said March blooms on some varieties of peaches were caught by cold snaps that typically would have spelled disaster for the state crop, which may exceed $90 million in value.
"We measured temperatures of 25 degrees for four to six hours during bloom stage," Rollins said. "For us to have anything after that is a blessing. It doesn't make sense at all scientifically, but we actually appear to have a full crop."
The most recent South Carolina report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service, released April 22, rated the conditionof a mere 2 percent of the peach crop as poor, with nearly half the state's peaches good or excellent.
Some early varieties of peaches, which begin to bear in early June, may have been affected by the cold, but the bulk of the crop looks strong at the moment, Rollins said.
Peaches are the state's most valuable and widely produced fruit. South Carolina is consistently the nation's second-largest peach-producing state behind California.
Rollins said South Carolina berry crops — dominated by strawberries, but including significant patches of blackberries and blueberries — also seem on target thanks to the mild spring.
"There have been some serious virus problems on strawberries in other states, but we haven't found it so far in South Carolina," Rollins said. "There are two viruses involved and you need to have both to have the problem. We're keeping a close watch on it, but our transplants come from a different area than the ones that have affected other states, so we're pretty hopeful at this stage.
"We'll keep our fingers crossed for continued good weather," he said. "It's been a little dry, but the majority of our strawberry crop is under drip irrigation, so we can make our own rain if we need to."