Published on 05/27/04

Georgia peach crop best in decade

By Brad Haire
University of Georgia

Georgia is on track to have one of its best and sweetest peach crops in a decade, experts say.

The harvest is well under way. Weather conditions have been good. Peach growers should be happy with what they're seeing, said Kathy Taylor, a horticulturist with the University of Georgia Extension Service.

Dry weather has kept disease problems to a minimum. But it hasn't caused much stress on the trees, she said. Small afternoon showers and irrigation have given trees enough moisture.

The dry, sunny but cool spring helped the peaches become sweeter this year, too, she said. Excessive water generally dilutes peaches.

"Georgia peaches have a good, sweet flavor this year," she said. "I know. I've tasted them already."

The harvest starts around the first of May and ends the second week of August.

Taylor said trees are strong and healthy right now. There should be many peaches for shoppers to buy well into August, she said.

During early harvest, trees generally produce around 75 pounds of peaches per tree. Later-harvested trees could produce as much as 300 pounds per tree, she said.

Georgia farmers grow about 15,000 acres of peaches.

The cool winter helped trees, too. Peach trees need a certain number of chill hours, or hours below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, to perform well in spring and summer.

Middle Georgia, where about 95 percent of the peaches are grown, had about 1,160 chill hours. South Georgia orchards got about 770 chill hours. This was enough to help trees remain dormant for their necessary winter naps.

A little frost harmed some trees in the south this spring, she said. "But overall," she said, "everything has gone right this year for Georgia's peach crop."

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