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Triad peach growers losing this years crop due to early bloom, freezing temperatures

Local farmers say peach trees bloomed in February, weeks ahead of schedule. With multiple nights below freezing, the blooms will likely be destroyed.

BURLINGTON, N.C. — Just like many other fruits growing around the Piedmont Triad, peach orchards across the area are blooming well-ahead of schedule. 

Farmers say that is because of the warm temperatures we experienced in February. 

With another night of freezing temperatures ahead, the owner of Buttermilk Creek Farm said the cold temperatures will likely kill off every bud on his peach trees. 

If that happens, it would leave them without any peaches for this year's crop. 

"Once in a while, you have a really good year and then again it's not so great. It's just part of growing peaches," said Steve Smith. 

This year is shaping up to be a not-so-great year for Smith, owner of Buttermilk Creek Farm in Burlington.  

"These trees normally don't bloom until the middle of March and they were in full bloom in February," said Smith. 

Smith has grown peaches for decades.

He already knows the cold temperatures will likely kill all of those bright pink blooms.

"Almost every one of these, I've pulled several of them, one looked fine, probably 10, the ovary is already shriveled up and turned brown so you're not going to get a peach there," said Smith.

Smith said some frost is not always a bad thing. 

It helps to thin the blooms which allows the fruit to grow larger and sweeter. 

He said it would take more than 100 man hours to thin just a single acre of peaches. 

Icing the trees on cold nights can also help. 

However, on years like this when the damage is already done, Smith said it's just too late. 

"We have done that several years but a year like this if they are all in full bloom in February, It's almost a losing battle and I have done that. I've pumped ponds dry trying to keep ice on them and it's just a waste of time after a while," said Smith. 

Smith is still looking on the bright side. 

He said their blackberries and blueberries should be able to weather the cold temperatures. 

He's also planning to grow a variety of vegetables this summer since the peach crop is expected to be, less than peachy.

"You know, this weather is so freaky across the country," said Smith. "At least we're not flooded and we're not under 5 feet of snow so we shouldn't complain so much about losing are peaches, it's not a big deal."


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