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Freezing Weather Could Destroy S.C. Peach Crop

Winter weather in South Carolina is threatening the state's peach crop, affecting the second leading peach producer in the country.

The peach trees at Belue Farms Natural Food Market in Boiling Springs are in bloom, but before the peaches make can make it to markets throughout the country, they have to survive the cold.

However, Clemson Agriculture Agent Andy Rollins says during this time period, the peaches are the most fragile.

“At that period of time that little peach is very susceptible to just about any cold and so if the temperature drops between 28 and 26 degrees, it’s gonna suffer some degree loss because of those temperatures."

Rollins said Monday’s cold, damaged some of the peach blooms, but he remains optimistic, saying he only needs about two peaches per limb.

Most of the concern lies in the forecast for the rest of the week, when more freezing temperatures are expected.

“It looks like Thursday morning around 6 a.m. is the predicted low from the National Weather Service so we are very concerned about that. 24° and the stage that we're at would be very difficult for producers to handle at this point."

The National Weather Service released the following statement on freezing temperatures affecting peach crops, adding apple crops may be affected as well:

"A very cold night as cold advection brings temps down well below normal and well down into the hard freeze category, which threatens to wipe out the rest of the peach crop and might also impact the apple crop. We will all feel sorry later this summer when we have no local peaches or apples."

The SC Dept. of Agriculture says blueberries and strawberries may also be affected by the dropping temperatures, however, many factors will affect the amount of damage, if any, sustained by the crops. Some of the variables include: stage of bloom, wind, moisture and the length of time the temperature stays below freezing.

Farmers will not be able to made accurate assessments until the cold weather has moved through the area.

"For now, all we can do is wait,” said Hugh Weathers, SC Commissioner of Agriculture. “These specialty crops are very important to our farm economy and we are all saying a prayer for the farmers ahead of the potential freeze.”

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