Peach farmers brace for cold snap to keep crop alive

HAYDEN, Ala. (WIAT) -- As the temperatures dip below freezing this week, peach farmers are keeping a close eye on their orchards.

The sudden cold snap can have a deadly impact on the buds that have already bloomed and are exposed to the elements.

On Tuesday night, Blount County farmer Jimmy Witt spent the day in his Hayden peach fields, stoking coal fires around the plants. He said he hoped to raise the temperatures a couple of degrees around the plants, degrees that could make a big difference.

"Mid day, we'll be able to tell, once the sun comes up, to cut into that bud or that bloom, it'll turn black if it's frozen. If it's still alive, it'll still be green," Witt said.

Witt also plans to run sprinklers on Wednesday night to bring more warmth to the plants. He says the danger is not to the varieties that have yet to bloom, but to the pink flowers that have.

"It's not necessarily farm to farm, it's more variety to variety," Witt said. "We have parts of our orchard we aren't concerned about, because they're not blooming. The ones behind us require less chilling to begin growing, so those are coming out earlier, and those are the ones we're trying to protect."

There is some good news, though. Witt says because there are so many blooms on the trees each year, he can stand to lose some of them. As long as he makes it thorough the season with ten percent of the blooms, he'll have enough for a crop.

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