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January 28, 2002   Email to Friend 

Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
January 28, 2002

The warm winter weather Alabama has enjoyed so far this year has peach growers concerned about this year's crop, said Bobby Boozer, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System horticulturist.

Boozer, who works out of the Chilton County Regional Research and Extension Center (CRREC), said central Alabama peaches had about 610 chill hours as of Jan. 15.

That's not enough, and if current weather patterns continue, the trees won't get the chill hours they need, Boozer said.

Chill hours are the number of hours the temperature is below 45 degrees. Peach trees in Alabama need between 350 to 1,050 chill hours from October through February to grow properly.

If the peach trees don't have enough chill hours, the result is small or misshapen fruit, weak trees and delayed blooming and leafing.

"The 46-year average at CRREC is 831 chill hours between the first of October and Jan. 15," Boozer said. "So we're probably about 200 to 230 hours below the 46-year average in the center of the state. Other areas of the state are running a little bit short on chilling, as well. We could end up with about 75 percent of the total chilling we need. Those affected in central Alabama would be the varieties requiring 900 to 1,050 chill hours; the ones below 900 should not be a problem. If the weather would stay normal, we can still pick up the hours we need."

In 2000, Alabama's peach crops had just 562 chill hours by Jan. 15, but had 1,026 by Feb. 15 - almost double the hours in just a month, Boozer said.

"But in 1999, we had 547 chill hours by Jan. 15, and then only got up to 690 by Feb. 15," he said. "So you never know about the weather. This year some varieties in the state might benefit from using Dormex."

Dormex, a product used to break the tree's dormancy period, must be applied several weeks ahead of normal bloom.

"We'll be looking at it closely to make that call on what we need to do," Boozer said.

Source: Bobby Boozer, Horticulturist, Chilton Regional Research and Extension Center, (205) 646-3610

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