Bitter cold takes toll on peaches

Surprise freeze zaps up to 1/3 of valley’s crop

Days after a freeze killed off most or all of the Grand Valley’s apricots, Palisade growers on Monday took a sucker punch where it hurts the most: in their cash crop.

One farmer reported that commercial fruit growers in the east end of the valley may have lost as much as a third — roughly $7 million — of their peaches, as overnight lows in some areas dropped into the mid-teens. The National Weather Service reported a low of 17 degrees at Grand Junction Regional Airport.

But Talbott Farms orchard manager Bruce Talbott says it could have been worse.

“By the charts, we shouldn’t have anything left,” said Talbott, who cares for nearly 300 acres of fruit trees.

He said the cold temperatures caught farmers by surprise, since forecasts called for lows in the mid-20s and Sunday night began with snow and cloudy skies. But the clouds cleared after midnight and the bottom fell out of the mercury.

Talbott said some varieties of peaches, including Suncrest, Flavor Crest and Rich Lady, were essentially wiped out. Others such as Cresthaven, Red Haven and Glo Haven look like they survived and could produce full crops.

He said the snow helped insulate peach buds and probably saved growers from further damage.

Sunday night’s freeze comes three days after several farms reported the near-total loss of their apricot crops.

Talbott said cherry crops also sustained heavy losses, although apples and pears are still safe.

Farmers haven’t escaped the danger yet, however, as freezes can extend well into April.

Overnight lows Monday were forecast to dip into the low 20s, and some farmers were expected to run their wind machines.


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