Alabama peaches in some uncertainty for 2023
By Cole Sikes
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – 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.
Reason for Deficiency
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 Alabama peaches in 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.