Peach growers battling to save Alabama's cash crop - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Peach growers battling to save Alabama's cash crop

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Bundle up, temperatures below freezing Tuesday night will have you shivering on your morning commute.

But there's a bigger impact.

Farmers hope the dipping mercury doesn't short change one of Alabama's biggest cash crops.

More than a dozen people will be working overnight in a Chilton County peach orchard. They'll be keeping an eye on the temperature and the blossoms.

Peach grower, Henry Williams, is preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.

If temperatures drop below 30-degrees, a variety of peaches could be damaged.

He almost lost a crop last year to cold temperatures.

"The temperature was suppose to go to 28 and it went to 24. we had a lot of damage in that orchard. That's why we're being precautious this time."

Helicopters landed at Mulberry Farms ready to fly over the orchard if needed overnight. Wind from the blades will help keep the trees dry.

"We have some wind machines that blow air. We have eight of those and will run those for sure."

Along with burning piles of brush to warm the blossoms.

Durbin Farms owner, Danny Jones, says "I'll be checking temperatures across the fields. If we're burning coals. I'll help burn coals and brush piles whatever they need me to do."

Jones relies on this orchard. "This is my livelihood. Peaches is what makes our market. From New York to Miami, people traveling I-65, they depend on us."

Which is why he and others will be on hand to monitor all 100 acres to protect as many blossoms which will become peaches later this spring.

Williams says even if half the blooms are lost, they will still have a good crop of peaches. But he'll be keep watching the forecast. Freezing temperatures are typically concern until After April 15th.

Gala and June Gold peaches are some of the most vulnerable varieties, because they're early bloomers. While cold weather is beneficial to an orchard early on, warm weather is needed to continue growing the peach.

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