Published on 06/19/03

Georgia peaches almost too good, expert says

Brad Haire
University of Georgia

The weather has been good, almost too good, for one of Georgia's sweetest crops, says a University of Georgia expert.

Georgia's peach crop has had the weather it needed to grow well this year. Shoppers can expect plenty of large, pretty peaches, says Kathryn Taylor, a horticulturist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. It's one of the best peach crops in years.

"Georgia's peach trees are producing very large fruit due to the spring and summer rains," she said. And, due to the relatively cool spring, "fruit color has been better than in recent years."

But those same heavy rains, it seems, have also caused some problems.

Best fruits later

The rain has diluted the sugar content of the early fruits, "making them seem less flavorful," she said. "But we expect the later fruit to have better flavor, as late fruit usually does."

The rain has also increased the potential for fungal diseases on the fruit.

Peaches are more prone to develop fungal rot and can have a shorter shelf life. But growers are taking extra measures, she said, to prevent rot and remove suspect fruit during packing.

"It seems that every good event in agriculture has its cost," she said.

Almost all of the crop is in good to fair condition right now, according to the Georgia Agricultural Statistics Service.

Harvest going strong

Middle Georgia growers produce about 90 percent of the state's peach crop. South Georgia growers produce the rest. South Georgia's harvest is coming to an end, but farmers in middle Georgia will harvest into the first week of August.

Georgia's chilly winter got the peaches off to a good start for this harvest.

Peaches need so many chill hours (below 45 degrees) during the winter. Depending on the variety, they need from 400 to about 1,000 chill hours to perform well during the growing season, she said. Middle Georgia got more than 1,300 hours.

(Brad Haire is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Brad Haire is the former news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.