By some reports, 85% of Georgia’s peach crop was destroyed after an unusually warm winter.
According to FiveThirtyEight, 2017 has been especially bad after the necessary chill hours failed to reach peach crops.
Cold air and less sunlight trigger the release of chemicals that halt trees’ growth, prepare them to withstand freezing temperatures and enable them to resume growing the following spring. When a tree enters this dormant state, it sets a kind of internal seasonal alarm clock that goes off once the tree has spent enough time in chilly temperatures. This countdown is measured in so-called chill hours — the amount of time the temperature is between 32 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. When crops don’t get the chill hours they expect, they can’t properly reset. Buds are delayed, and instead of ripening into juicy, delicious fruit, they remain small and underdeveloped.
The University of Georgia extension office reports that peaches appeared from the middle of May to the first week of July – but then not again.