Posted BY: | NwoReport
Summer is around the corner, and in Georgia, summer means peaches.
But horticulturists at the University of Georgia say roughly 90% of the Peach State’s crop has been destroyed by bad weather and a warming climate.
The last time things were this bad was 1955, according to Lawton Pearson of Pearson Farm in Fort Valley, Georgia.
“I didn’t see it. I wasn’t alive,” Pearson says. “My dad was only six. My grandfather picked two peaches, and they went to California for the summer.”
Peaches require a minimum number of chill hours, below 45 degrees, to set fruit. But the first three months of this year were the warmest on record in Georgia, and chill hours here have been declining over the years. That’s due to climate change.
Growers are experimenting with new varieties that need fewer chill hours. Some of those varieties did get the cold they needed this year. But right when they were blooming, a spurt of unlucky freezing weather zapped the buds.
“You had a low-chill peach perfectly fine with this winter,” Pearson says. “It bloomed, then got four nights under 28 [degrees]. You can’t win either way.”
Dario Chavez, an associate horticulture professor at the UGA who specializes in peaches, says around the state, between 85 and 95% of the peach crop was lost.
So don’t count on sinking your teeth into a peach from the Peach State anytime soon.
“Not Georgia peaches,” Pearson says. “I don’t think you’ll see Georgia peaches in the grocery store.”