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Recent freeze cost peach tree farmers a portion of their crops

After the warmest February on record, Mid-Missourians were met with a cold start to March. Those cold temperatures were really felt the past few mornings, where a hard freeze was occurring. This hard freeze follows one of the earliest blooming seasons, that Peach Tree Farms Bruce Arnett has ever seen.

“I know that we went through 15 to 20 percent crop loss just the other night when it got really cold,” Arnett said.

Despite the loss, Arnett says there are still buds that have yet to bloom and aren’t totally lost.

State extension fruit specialist Michele Warmund says the freeze, although damaging buds, wasn’t necessarily a bad thing from a financial standpoint.

“What this cold weather has done for us is actually help us save some labor and not have us hand thin off the excessive fruit that would have occurred,” Warmund said.

Arnett says he’d rather incur the cost of labor because of consistency with the peach trees.

“We don’t want a freeze because it’s not consistent as far as thinning the buds out and it’s really easy to go from having a 60 percent crop which is fairly good to a 5 percent crop,” Arnett said.

Looking ahead, Arnett knows he will experience some form of crop loss this year, but for now it is likely not going to be as significant as last year, where he lost 80 percent of his crop. As far as the buds that have yet to bloom, time will only tell.

“These next two weeks will be critical for cold temperatures and then if we get 23 degrees at half an hour, we will incur major damage,” Warmund said.

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