Early Arkansas Peach Blossom is Cause for Concern

3/12/2012

Arkansas peach trees are blooming after record breaking warm temperatures brought them into flower early.

Now growers are concerned that they many be damaged in the event of a late frost occurring.

This is what happened back in 2007, when an early frost wiped out crops after the trees had been brought into flower by a similarly warm winter. The same thing happened to the grape crop that year too.

The national Weather Service says there is a 50-50 chance of the last frost of the year taking place by April 4th.

Dan Chapman, director of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Fruit Research Station, said peach blossoms can take a little frost, but that is was a very fine line between the flowers surviving and the crop being lost decimated.

"Twenty-eight degrees seems to be the magic number," Chapman said. "You can lose some of the blooms in the low 30s, but about 28 degrees, that seems to kill the flower buds."

The worst that can happen is the petals falling off due to the frosts, thus exposing the immature fruits to the elements.

"Twenty-eight degrees can do a lot of damage there," he said.

Next weeks forecast does not predict frost, but there is still plenty of time for this to change over  the next weeks and even months and growers can not yet rest easy.

Chapman said peach trees need a certain amount of cool weather before spring in order to bloom. "There are a lot of different theories about that," Chapman said. Some say the low temperatures have to remain between 32 and 45 for a certain amount of hours. Some peaches require only 400 hours of chilling. Others require three times as much. The duration of cool weather needed by different varieties is more of a concern for backyard growers, Chapman said. "That can be a problem for people buying fruit from big box stores that don't get varieties specific for the region," he said.

Source: www.huffingtonpost.com