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Officials offer positive outlook for S.C. peach crop

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Staff Report
Published Feb. 22, 2016

Favorable growing conditions have given peach growers a positive outlook for an excellent crop this year, according to the S.C. Department of Agriculture.

After delays from heavy rains in the fall, growers went to work planting new trees, installing irrigation lines and pruning established orchards, the agency said.

peach_imagePeach farmers anticipate a normal bloom date in a few weeks thanks to the recent stretch of cool weather. (Photo/Clemson University)
“We are off to a good start for the 2016 peach crop,” said Matt Forrest, president of the S.C. Peach Council and co-owner of Dixie Belle Peaches, headquartered in Ward. “After a late start to winter, we now expect to accumulate more than enough of the necessary chill hours and are anticipating a normal bloom date in a few weeks.”

With an unusually warm fall, growers have been monitoring weather stations daily. Peach trees require between 600 and 1,000 chill hours, depending on variety, to overcome dormancy. Farmers choose plant varieties that coincide with their location based on these figures to ensure the highest quality fruit. As the weather has finally turned cool, these hours below 45 degrees are steadily accumulating and South Carolina peach farmers feel confident that these requirements will be met, the agency said.

"Although we had a late start to our winter season, once the cold temperatures arrived, we have been in an excellent position to accumulate chill hours with very consistent temperatures and highs in the 50s and lows in the 30s," said Chalmers Carr, president of Titan Farms, based in Ridge Spring. “We are well-beyond the minimum chill hours necessary and look forward to a great spring leading into an even better peach season.”

South Carolina is the top peach producing state on the East Coast and second in the nation only to California.

In 2014, South Carolina produced 60,800 tons of peaches valued at $63.3 million, according to the most current statistics from the Agriculture Marketing Resource Center of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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