South Carolina’s 2016 peach season could be the best in years, according to researchers with Clemson University.
“We normally have a cooler fall than we had last year and we also had extremely wet weather this year,” Clemson University Extension agent Andy Rollins said in an announcement predicting the harvest. “But despite all of that, we still were able to get in all of our chilling hours. This year could be one of the best years ever for our peach crop.”
Chilling hours are the number of hours peach trees have in temperatures below 45 degrees, a necessary part of the growing process. Rollins said peach trees in South Carolina require 800 to 1,000 chilling hours.
While ideal weather conditions didn’t pose a threat to this year’s crop, Rollins said insects and diseases are a risk. San Jose scales are small insects that usually go unnoticed until the population injures the tree. The scales survive the winter as partially developed male and female adults. Development continues when the sap flow begins in the spring and they become fully developed about the time the peach trees are in bloom. This species does not lay eggs, but gives birth to crawlers that immediately disperse over the tree. There are four to six generations per year.
South Carolina produces the second largest peach crop in the United States. The United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service show that South Carolina produced 69,000 tons of peaches in 2015. California produced the most and Georgia came in as the third-largest producer of peaches in 2015.