Alabama peaches facing some uncertainty

From Farm Progress | 2 March 2023

Overview of peaches from Alabama in the U.S. market, complemented by charts from Agronometrics. Original published on February 28, 2023. 

Alabama peach growers are currently evaluating the state of their fruit crop for 2023. Seasonal temperatures play a large role in providing quantity and quality of peaches through chilling hours. An Alabama Cooperative Extension System commercial horticulture professor said chilling hours are not sufficient for optimum peach production at this point—leaving the fruit crop in some uncertainty this year.

peach volumes by history

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

Peach trees contain important tools for production called growth regulators. During the tree’s dormancy, these regulators increase with each hour it receives at optimum temperatures–providing a more favorable opportunity for peaches to grow from buds.

“Central Alabama is deficient in chilling this year,” said Edgar Vinson, an Alabama Extension commercial horticulture assistant professor.

Vinson said in order for peach trees to break dormancy and produce large quantities of quality fruit, a number of chilling hours at or below 45 degrees F must be naturally applied during the cool months.

“As of Feb. 15, chill accumulation in central Alabama was approximately 772 chill hours. Well below the preferred minimum of 850,” Vinson said. “We are even further below the 982 chill hours on this day last year.”

What does this mean for 2023?

Since this year’s winter did not provide sufficient chilling hours for peaches, there is a chance that 2023’s harvest could see residual effects.

“Peach farmers in central Alabama will likely see a longer bloom period and a smaller-than-usual crop at each harvest for peach varieties with moderate or high chill requirements,” Vinson said.

However, there is no need to panic for peach lovers in Alabama. Local vendors should still have enough tasty fruit to go around as long as Mother Nature complies.

“Alabama peach farmers are in a position to have a good harvest as long the weather does not get too cold after tree buds begin to break,” Vinson said.

Peachy keen

Peaches are an important crop to central Alabama. Even though this season’s yield may not surpass last year’s, producers are preparing for harvest this spring so that everyone can enjoy this juicy treat.

To learn more about peaches and chill portions or chill hours read the Extension Brief, Chill Hour and Chill Portion Comparison in Peaches or read any of the additional peach information on Alabama Extension’s website, www.aces.edu.

The News in Charts is a collection of stories from the industry complemented by charts from Agronometrics to help better tell their story.

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