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Unseasonable Temps Not Helping Chilling Requirements for Fruit Trees

Fruit farmers in the Southeast have been concerned about the very warm temperatures in December and hope that more seasonal temperatures will return in January. The peaches and blueberries need a certain number of hours (called “chill hours”) below 45 F to set a good crop of fruit for harvest next year. This year’s number of chill hours is lower than the long-term average due in part to the La Nina now occurring, although the trend towards warmer winters in recent years has also had an effect. You can read more in Specialty Crop Industry.

You can calculate chill hours for some agricultural stations in Florida and Georgia at Chill Hours Calculator – AgroClimate. The graph below for Peach County GA near Macon shows that while this year got off to a good start in November, the warmth in December has now put chill hour accumulations behind last year’s. It is even farther below the average number for this time of year. Projections based on past data suggest that the season will end with lower-than-average chill hours even in the best case based on past years.

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