Piedmont peach growers concerned about the cold

While it's not as large as the peach orchards you will find across the southern Piedmont, the little fuzzy fruit still carries a lot of weight at Millstone Creek Orchards.

"If you have them, you are the only game in town," co-owner Beverly Mooney said. "So it's really neat to be able to do it when we do it."

The Randolph County orchard was able to do it last year. They sold over 30,000 pounds of peaches last year. And Mooney said they probably lost just as many.

"We were giving them away. If you ever heard of a bumper crop, we had a bumper crop," Mooney said.

Now she is wondering if last year was just good luck. A recent stretch of warm days and mild nights sent several rows of peach trees into bloom.

"These couple of rows we are in right here, I would tell you we are about 50 to 70 percent bloom," Mooney described.

And with low temperatures between 20 and 25 degrees, any early blooms could be lost.

"A lot of time it's complete destruction," she said.

Brad Thompson is a horticulture extension agent based in Montgomery County. Thompson said during a similar March chill last year, only 40 percent of the peach crop in his area survived. But he adds all is not lost.

"The beauty of peach trees is they produce more buds than they need," Thompson said. "So if some are killed, there are usually more on the tree that will come through the cold with little to no damage."

Plus peach growers can offset their losses by not putting all of their peaches in one basket.

"Most peach growers produce other fruits and vegetables each year to sell along side their peaches," Thompson said. "This is not only in the case of a crop loss, but also to offer customers more than peaches at their stands or farmers markets."

At Millstone Creek Orchards, they noticed the same thing. Not all of the five acres of peach trees have blossomed. That means the cold shouldn't hurt them.

"What you pray for is a great blueberry or blackberry or grapes or apples, something else to help pull that year out for you," Mooney said.

By Friday or early next week, peach growers will know if their early blooms survived the March cold.

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