Alabama peach farmers still optimistic despite freeze threat

Alabama peach farmers still optimistic despite freeze threat

Even though freezing temperatures hit Alabama March 25, peach farmers say the crop is still set to be OK.

Even though freezing temperatures hit overnight March 25 Alabama peach farmers remain optimistic about this year's crop. The cold weather damaged blooms and buds on early-maturing peach varieties in north Alabama, but losses are expected to be minimal.

"We have around 20 varieties of peach trees, and maybe two to four of those were damaged," said Mike Reeves, who operates Reeves Peach Farm in Morgan County. "A peach tree has about 10 times the amount of blooms and buds it needs to make a crop. There's actual some benefit to losing buds early on because you have to thin later anyway."

Thinning is a process where farmers knock off some early-stage fruit so remaining fruit can absorb more nutrients and grow larger.

Reeves said the temperature at his farm fell to 22 degrees at 3 a.m. and did not go above freezing until late morning.

"Some time around 11 p.m., the wind stopped blowing and the temperature just kept dropping," he said. "At this point, though, we're still going to have an OK season. We're very blessed to still have fruit."

It will take about a week for farmers to observe tree growth and the extent of damages. Blount County farmer Jimmy Witt said he was still examining trees on Wednesday afternoon.

"We do have a good bit of kill on blossoms," Witt said. "It's still a little early for us to know the full story. I don't think anything is completely wiped out."

Peaches are an important crop for Alabama farmers. In 2012, growers in the state produced 7 million pounds of the fruit.

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