Local News

Oddly Warm Weather Leaves Fruit Farmers Cold

Posted January 5, 2007 8:24 p.m. EST
Updated January 5, 2007 9:50 p.m. EST

Twenty-five out of the past 26 days have been warmer than normal in the Triangle area. The state Agriculture Department says it won't impact most crops, but for peach farmers, the weather is less than peachy.

Watts Auman grows peaches along Highway 73 outside the Moore County town of West End. He said his outdoor thermometer is needling toward 70 degrees, and it's still 11 weeks before April Fool's Day. He wonders whether this warm January might fool some of his trees into an early blossom.

"Our preferred blossom is for them to stay cold, stay cold, stay cold, and get warm at the same time, and everything blossoms at the same time," said Auman.

Auman has grown 6,000 peach trees on 40 rolling acres for 68 years. He said most of the trees need more cold weather before it's safe for them to bear fruit.

"They're going to require more cold hours,” he said.

North Carolina State University extension specialists said peach trees require 750 hours of temperatures around 40 degrees or lower before they can bloom. They said North Carolina's trees have not had that much chill time, so there's no danger of their blooming during this January warm streak. There is concern that bitterly cold weather after so much warmth could damage the buds, however.

Auman said he’s never seen such a mild winter on his farm.

"I don't remember it happening this warm and this constant,” Auman said.

North Carolina's peach crop generated up to $15 million last year. The state is the seventh-largest in the country for growing peaches.