Concerns about warm winter hurting peach crop come to fruition

Published: May. 19, 2017 at 2:18 PM CDT|Updated: May. 19, 2017 at 6:31 PM CDT
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The peach trees at Mitcham Farms in Ruston should have been in full bloom by mid-March....
The peach trees at Mitcham Farms in Ruston should have been in full bloom by mid-March. Instead, most of them were only showing just a few buds. (Source: KSLA News 12)

RUSTON, LA (KSLA) - It's peach harvest time, but this year's crop won't be robust thanks to a very warm winter.

"To be quite honest, I don't know if we have marketable crop this year. It may be one percent or something like that," said Joe Mitcham, the owner of Mitcham Farms in Ruston, LA.

Most varieties of peaches at Mitcham Farms require between 850 to 1,000 hours of chill below 45 degrees. Because temperatures in the ArkLaTex failed to reach those temperatures as frequently as needed, Mitcham's peach trees saw less than 300 chill hours.

"It's the worst peach year in a while," said Mitcham. "It's hard to spray or prune to justify the expense for taking care of this small of crop."

When peach trees do no get the required amount of chill hours, they typically shed off a lot of the fruit. Also, Mitcham said the peaches will be miss-shapen and won't be ideal in size.

Typically, when Mitcham has a bad harvest he imports peaches from other states, but this year those farmers have the same problem.

"I have a good friend in Alabama with really good quality peaches. he is in the same boat that I am. He has a little more than what I do. He may be able to sell all of his peaches resale right there in Alabama without paying the shipping cost to get them to Louisiana to sell them whole sale."

With a poor harvest, Mitcham expects a high demand in peaches and peach products and short supply.

Right now, Mitcham is not sure if this is going to have an impact on the price of peaches this year because California farmers have a good peach crop.

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