Louisiana peach farmers loved the cold winter

(Source: KSLA News 12)
(Source: KSLA News 12)
Updated: Mar. 6, 2018 at 7:01 PM CST
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RUSTON, LA (KSLA) - Many in the ArkLaTex hate the cold winter, but peach farmers love it.

For the first time in about 3 years, Louisiana peach farmers are expecting a good harvest.

Joe Mitcham, the owner of Mitcham Farms in Ruston, LA, says most of his peach trees require about 850 chill hours, and this year they got a lot more than that.

"We had about 1,017 hours. That is chills hours, hours below 45 degrees," said Mitcham. "Last year we had a total of 350 hours for the year."

Because of the lack of chill hours, last year's peaches were small and miss-shapen.

Even though more chill hours does not guarantee high-quality peaches, it delays their bloom, which is a good thing.

"The longer you have the cold weather the less likely they are to bloom early. The earlier they bloom the more susceptible they are too late freezes," said Mitcham.

Even though a frost or a light freeze will be possible later this week, Mitcham is not concerned it will impact his peaches.

"They are still protected. They have the little bloom around the little peach. They could probably take 26 degrees or even a little colder than that for a short period of time," said Mitcham.

The average date of the last freeze in Shreveport is March 10. However, freezing temperatures have been recorded as late as April 11.

In the past, Mitcham would light coal piles to keep his peaches from freezing during a late freeze, but it was not very efficient or clean.

"It just did not work, to be honest. It produced some heat, but it was very labor intensive because they had to put out 100 lb pile of coal in between each tree and when you have 10,000 trees that's a lot of coal," said Mitcham.

Now Mitcham uses turbines to keep the air circulating and frost from forming on his peaches. Even though the turbines are noisy, they are much cleaner and more efficient.

"We have giant wind machines that keep the air stirred in the orchard and prevents the frost from settling on the trees. If the conditions are right they will maintain about a 5 degree warmer area within their circumference," said Mitcham.

Hopefully, Mitcham will not have to worry about a late freeze this year, but an old farmer's saying goes "when it thunders in February, it will frost in April". There were storms in February.

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