Thursday, April 19, 2007

Freeze Damage In Georgia

I've had the opportunity the past few days to visit with fruit growers from across Georgia, to discuss the damage they've suffered from the Easter weekend freeze that hit the state. Depending on the crops, things are either pretty bad, really bad, or devastating.

It looks like the Middle Georgia peach crop could be down as much as 60 to 70% from normal. A Peach County grower I spoke with says he's only seen one year with worse freeze damage since he's run his family operation. The warm weather in the weeks leading up to Easter had the trees blooming like mad. The fruit was developing well, then the freeze hit. But he will have some peaches. Growers in North Georgia seem to have lost all their peaches, along with pretty much any other soft fruits that were developing.

The apple crop in North Georgia suffered a similar fate. Early reports from state Ag Commissioner Tommy Irvin said the crop had been wiped out. Looking at the trees in FanninGilmer Counties yesterday, there are still some trees with live blooms. There are some trees that hadn't started blooming that should still produce fruit. One of the growers I spoke with hopes to have as much as 20% of his normal production, although it may come from just a few of the 40 or so varieties he grows.

The freeze caused considerable damage to pecan trees in Middle and North Georgia. In some cases, whole orchards saw complete loss of the season's crop.

Wine grapes are a growing business in North Georgia, and a big money maker. A county agent I spoke to said the early developed vines suffered bad damage, but it will be a while before growers know how secondary growth will develop. In some vineyards, the temperature dipped as low as 19 degrees.

All in all, a lot of growers will lose a lot of money because of this late freeze. It might not be as bad as originally thought, but it will still be a very difficult year.