Warmer seasonal temperatures frustrate some East Texas farmers

Warmer seasonal temperatures frustrate some East Texas farmers
Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 3:34 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 18, 2023 at 10:20 PM CST
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GREGG COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - The unusually warm weather we’ve had in the recent days has been nice for most, but it could spell trouble for some East Texas fruit farmers.

Unseasonably warm weather in January is not good news for large scale orchard growers like Panola Orchards and Gardens in Deberry.

“That’s not good for us. That’s not good for the blueberries or the strawberries. They’ll start blooming too early. I was concerned yesterday when it was like 82 degrees here,” says Panola Orchards manager Jason Martin.

‘Chill hours’ are the key for anyone who grows fruit like peaches.

“You need your chill hours, too, that way your blooms will set, which will then turn into your fruit development,” says Gregg County Texas A&M Agri-life extension agent Shanequa Davis.

A chill hour is measured on days where the temperature is between 32 degrees and 45 degrees. Our region needs 700-to-800 for healthy fruit crops, particularly peaches.

“We have roughly 500 chill hours that are between 32 and 45 degrees,” Davis says.

For the average person who doesn’t grow, chill hours don’t mean very much. But for those who raise on a large scale, it means a huge amount of revenue.

“It could be a potential to not have as well a bountiful harvest that you might see in previous years,” says Davis.

Martin worries that continued warm weather could create an early bloom.

“But if they start blooming and it gets below 32, 28 degrees, that will kill the bud. The flower. So we don’t like to see this warm weather,” he says.

Another problem with the warm temperatures is that every day above 45 degrees during this period, actually subtracts from the total number of ‘chill hours’ accumulated.