By Clint Thompson
Peach season is less than two months away for Alabama and Georgia growers and Edgar Vinson, assistant research professor and Extension specialist in the Department of Horticulture at Auburn University, is encouraged by this year’s crop despite a very mild winter.
“I’m cautiously optimistic. I do think we got more chilling than the chill hour models tell us. But my concern now and concern of the growers is potential for frost damage,” Vinson said. “Hopefully, it’s warm for the rest of the season.”
Vinson said Alabama’s peach season begins in late May and extends to September, which is very comparable to Georgia, and unlike Florida farmers, who are already harvesting their crop amid warm temperatures. Vinson does believe growers are a little concerned with chill hours with respect to the varieties that require a lot.
“And that’s not to say we’re not going to have any issues with chilling, we’ll probably see some issues with chill accumulation, especially with our high chillers. A number of our growers still have quite a number of peach varieties that require higher chilling; 900 (hours) or above,” Vinson said. “In terms of the early-season to mid-season (varieties), they’re probably not as concerned. They’re more concerned with the varieties that require a high chill. That’s probably where we’ll see any signs or symptoms of a lack of chilling.”
Lack of chilling hours can affect the overall quality and appearance of the fruit, according to Vinson.
“There’s an over-pronounced suturing that runs the length of the fruit. Ideally, we want that to be minimal. But when there’s a lack of a chilling, that suturing is very pronounced,” Vinson said. “Also, the tip of the fruit, you don’t want a point there; you want that to be smooth. With fruit that shows lack of chilling, there’s an over-pronounced suture with a very sharp tip at the end of the fruit.”
Vinson also said there can also be smaller harvests over a longer period.
“That means your growers are having their crews go out to the orchards for longer periods. That cost more money and each harvest is yielding less. It can affect the growers’ operation that way,” Vinson said.