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Winter weather threatens Georgia blueberry, peach crops

Update March 15: Peaches were hit hardest in Tuesday night’s freeze, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said Wednesday. Blueberries appeared to fare better and Vidalia onions “escaped any major damage so far.” 
The early spring weather of the past few weeks led to blooming peach trees “and unfortunately the freezing temperatures killed any open flowers and possibly compromised emerging buds,” Black said. 

Crop losses could total hundreds of millions of dollars, he said. 

Original post March 14: Georgia fruit farmers face the potential loss of millions of dollars in crops as a late-winter freeze threatens the state, top agriculture officials.

State Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said Tuesday that blueberry and peach farmers in particular are at risk.

“They’re telling me this morning that 60 percent of the rabbit-eye blueberries and then even some portions of the highbush could get pounded tonight,” Black said.

Georgia leads the country in blueberry production. Most of Middle and North Georgia will be under a freeze warning from 11 p.m. Tuesday until 11 a.m. Wednesday.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom McCall, R-Elberton, said peach farmers are also concerned.

“Farmers north of Macon had been preparing a bumper crop and were almost naming their own prices,” McCall said.

Now, those farmers could see fruit freeze overnight, while farmers south of Macon have struggled with not enough cool weather, he said.

Black said it remains to be seen whether the state’s Vidalia onion crop is harmed by the freeze.

“Onions are a little more resilient,” he said. “I’m not ready to comment on that. We’ll wait and see.”

There’s not much that can be done to help farmers, Black said, except pray for warmer weather.

“We’re going to be joining several groups, there are prayer meetings all over South Georgia,” he said. “We’ll be asking the Lord to protect us.”

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