What some have termed “crazy weather” appears to have cut potential peach yields by three-fourths or more in the major production areas of the state, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulturist.
Unseasonably warm weather punctuated by late freezes in the Central Texas, North Texas and Rolling Plains regions has knocked back the peach crop considerably, said Dr. Larry Stein, AgriLife Extension horticulturist in Uvalde who works mainly with pecans, fruits, grapes and vegetable crops.
“We’ve definitely had some damage,” Stein said. “A lot of fruit has been lost, but there are still some peaches around.”
The damage varied by peach variety and growing sites, he said.
“At the best sites, (on higher ground) the cold air drained away, and in a lot of those instances there are a few peaches scattered around,” Stein said. “And it was also variety driven. Certain varieties — Redglobe was one — seemed to fare better than others.”
It’s hard to estimate the total damage as there are so many large and small producers growing different varieties on various kinds of sites, he said.
“We all hesitate to put that number out there, but I’d say the amount of crop we have (left) is about 20 to 25 percent.”
If you are enjoying reading this article, please check out Southwest Farm Press Daily and receive the latest news right to your inbox.
The good news is that the remaining crop should be of excellent quality — large and of good flavor — because of the thinning by the freeze, Stein said.
“And because we may be going into a droughty time, maybe having a short crop during a drought will be a silver lining as the trees won’t be as stressed.”
Of course, some peach-growing areas dodged the freeze, Stein noted. For instance, East Texas orchards were largely spared.
“It just depended upon where that cold air settled,” he said.
The High Plains and South Plains also received hard freezes, but there are few peaches grown in that area. There are some apple orchards there, but because apples do not bloom as early as peaches they should recover, he said.
More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at http://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/ .