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Georgia peach farmers hope for colder winter

University of Georgia Cooperative Extension County coordinator Jeff Cook claims cooler temperatures are needed to avoid another disastrous peach season. Last year’s mild winter contributed to Georgia’s peach industry suffering an 80 percent loss. Cook estimates that 70 percent of those losses were attributed to a shortage of chill hours. And the late freeze this past spring probably contributed to the other 10 to 15 percent peach loss.

“Chill hours are vital to peach development. We didn’t have enough cold weather last year and it showed at harvest time,” said Cook. One of the Georgia peach varieties even requires some 850 chill hours, the highest chill requirement of all varieties grown in Georgia. When that particular variety only got around 450 chill hours last winter, the result was devastating for the farmers.

According to an article by moultrieobserver.com, the biggest hit to Georgia’s 2017 peach crop was the lack of peaches from July to August, which is typically the largest yielding period. Unfortunately for Georgia peach producers, this year’s forecast is projecting a warmer winter due to La Niña weather conditions.
However, even in a La Niña winter, outbreaks of cold air could still provide chill hours to the peaches.

Dario Chavez, a UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences assistant professor in peach research said the Georgia peach industry should know by the end of December, early January how this winter will compare to previous years.

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