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Cold Impacting Fruit in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina

Recent and ongoing cold weather is putting some fruit and other early planted crops at risk from northern Florida to South Carolina. Drought remains a concern in southern Florida.

An odd winter has agricultural interests concerned in the Southeastern states.

Warm weather early in the winter followed by late-season chill is causing some problems.

According to Amy London, Executive Director of the South Carolina Peach Council, "We have seen some varieties of peaches bloom early, while other varieties are on schedule."

For most varieties, damage occurs to buds when temperatures drop below 24 degrees. While the trees are blossoming, damage occurs when temperatures drop below 27 degrees.

"We have not had temperatures quite low enough for extensive damage, so far, but we have seen damage to some of the flower pedals," London said.

The cold will linger through the middle of the week in the South.

Temperatures could dip into the middle 20s in some of the orchards from Georgia to central and upstate South Carolina.

The risk of a damaging frost or freeze Tuesday night/Wednesday morning extends from northern Mississippi to much of Alabama, northern Florida, much of Georgia and South Carolina.

How low temperatures dip will depend on the wind. If a breeze stays up, the coldest air will not be able to collect near the ground and at tree level. Often these conditions are determined by local geography such as hillsides and proximity to large water bodies.

"Our heart goes out to blueberry farmers in southern Georgia who were hit hard by hail and have been battling freezing temperatures recently," London added.

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London remained optimistic about this year's peach crop, since there has been generally double the amount of rainfall over this winter when compared to the winter of 2011-2012 over much of Georgia and South Carolina. More is needed into the summer.

The risk of a frost and freeze extends into northern Florida.

According to Karl Schmidt, Florida agricultural statistician, "Some corn, peanuts, potatoes and watermelons have been planted during the past couple of weeks."

Drought is a major concern in central and southern counties of the Florida Peninsula.

The ongoing and building drought is a concern for livestock and the citrus industry.

"Long-running dryness is impacting grazing lands," Schmidt stated.

The Orlando area, for example, has only received about 3.50 inches of rain since Dec. 1, 2012, compared to a normal of around 10.30 inches.

According to Agricultural Weather Expert Dale Mohler, "While this is the dry season in much of the citrus areas of Florida, it has been drier longer than normal and could be placing extra stress on the trees."

Rain has helped of late over the central and northern counties of Sunshine State.

There is a chance of one to two additional rounds of rain next week for Florida in general, but the distribution and exact timing of the rainfall is uncertain at this early stage.

Based on evolving weather patterns, it appears that this week may be the last widespread risk of frost/freeze damage to the southern Atlantic Seaboard states. However, some abnormal chill is still possible over the mid-South on to the north through at least the middle of April.

Thumbnails and full-sized photo of peach blossoms by photos.com