ETX peach farmers concerned recent freeze could hurt crop production

ETX peach farmers concerned recent freeze could hurt crop production

SHELBY COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - Every year, the highs and lows of Texas winter make their presence felt on farms all across East Texas. This year, peach farmers in Shelby County said they’re among the latest to fall victim to the cold snap’s brutal effects.

With some crops, growers know instantly after a frost if it’s a ‘killing frost’.

Peach trees are different.

For the next three weeks, Glenn Russell will be getting up close and personal with 450 peach trees.

“The peach will form right in there,” Russell says while pointing to a tiny blossom inches from his face.

Every day, several times a day, the owner of the Peach Shed in Shelby County will be watching to see if two nights of temperatures in the 20s will prevent fruit from forming behind these pretty pink blossoms.

“If they start falling off and no development then you'll know they're all history," said the experienced grower.

Russell's research and guidance with Shelby County extension agent Lane Dunn led to an orchard that at its prime held over 800 trees. Sometimes it takes more to have a fruitful bounty.

“Pray is the only thing we can do,” he says with a laugh. “And so, we try to do that."

Russell can't plow under and replant. Peaches just don't work that way.

"You have one shot."

So, he waits, not knowing what will happen, but having to carry on with the labor-intensive and expensive routine of growing peaches.

"In the coming weeks he starts to have to put in some chemicals and things like that to make sure he doesn't have some issues with pests," explained Dunn.

Russell agrees. "Yeah, we'll probably have to spray for sure the next two weeks until we know for sure."

The investment and potential loss of 120 pounds of peaches from each tree is a concern.

"You stay nervous until late March. There could be another one," said Russell.

So, Russell and The Peach Shed customers who travel from miles around will just have to wait and see.

“No guarantee,” warns Russell.

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