Forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are expecting a La Niña-type winter, and Georgia peach growers, as well as their Southeastern peers, are hoping to get the chilling hours their trees need.
“We got about 500 hours in the Fort Valley area where most of the peaches are grown, and that proved to be the kiss of death for most varieties,” Will McGhee, Marketing Director for the Georgia Peach Council, told the The Gainsville (GA) Times.
Growers have been plagued the past two growing seasons with low chill hours. It’s estimated Georgia lost about 80% and South Carolina lost about 90% of their respective peach crops this year.
Growers told The Times if the dry, warm forecast comes to fruition, it will be a challenging season next year.
“We need winter (weather). Another mild winter will pose more challenges for everybody all over the Southeast,” Drew Echols, Farm Manager of Jaemor Farms told The Times.
The possibility of a La Niña climate pattern could mean a drier and warmer winter.
“You’re seeing these wild swings from very cold to very warm,” McGehee says. “You’re seeing a lot less of the talk of the word, ‘normal.’ Nobody knows what the new normal is.”
And for growers who might be concerned, Jeff Wainwright of Taylor Farms has the best outlook: “All you can do at this point is hope the good Lord gives you a good cold winter, and if he doesn’t, you have to plan around it,” he says.