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April 11, 2003   Email to Friend 

Production will be down, but there will be peaches available this summer.
Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
April 11, 2003

Mike Reeves, a peach producer in Morgan County, examines damage to his peach trees following a recent freeze. Reeves, who is a county Extension agent, serves on the Federation's State Horticulture Committee.
CLANTON, Ala. -- A late season cold snap on March 31 may cause some Alabama peach producers to lose up to 70 percent of their crop.

Bobby Boozer, a horticulturist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, said the freeze hurt some farmers more than others.

"Topography, elevation and the location of each particular orchard had a lot to do with how cold it got during the freeze event," Boozer said.

In Chilton County, farmers reported low temperatures between 23 and 32 degrees, with some areas staying below freezing for four to six hours.

"I would say that we are probably looking at 30 to 50 percent of a normal crop," Boozer said. "We've still got more time before we'll know what some of the marginal damage will look like. It may be the latter part of this month before we see how many (peaches) fall off or stop growing."

Boozer said Chilton County's plums and nectarines fared about as well as the peach crop while strawberries that were protected from the freeze by sprinklers and row covers received less damage. Boozer said the staff of the Chilton Research and Extension Center is investigating alternative crops to help growers hit hardest by the freeze.

Ironically, peach growers in the northern part of the state reported only mild to moderate damage as a result of the cold snap. Morgan County Extension Agent Mike Reeves, whose family operates a peach farm in Morgan County, said growers in his area could have close to a full crop of peaches, depending on location and variety.

"We were lucky because we were a little later in our bloom," Reeves said. "Chilton County was probably beginning to lose the shuck (around the young peaches). So even though it didn't get as cold there as it did here, their peaches were very susceptible to freeze at that stage."

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