Georgia peach crop decimated after warm winter

A worker collects peaches last week at Pearson Farm in Fort Valley. A double-punch of unseasonably warm winter weather and an ill-timed freeze has devastated crops in Georgia and South Carolina. (Maura Friedman/The New York Times)

Georgia's peach farmers have lost up to 80 percent of their crops after a combination of a mild winter and an early spring freeze, state agriculture officials said.

The losses could near $50 million, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black's office said. The news follows an estimated $250 million in losses from blueberries wiped out by the same mid-March freeze.

For peaches, however, it was the one-two punch that led to a wipeout.

The iconic state fruit requires 850 hours of temperatures below 45 degrees from October to February. But this past winter was so mild, only 500 hours met those needs. The result was sporadic blooms.

Other trees, in cooler parts of the state, came out of winter in better shape, only to be hit by freezing temperatures in March.

The freeze in March killed nearly three out of every 10 blooms, but did not destroy all of the peach crops which are now full of fruit.

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