Frost nips peach, apple crop in bud

KEARNEYSVILLE — Local orchard growers were hit hard by a recent cold spell that saw overnight temperatures in the region dip below freezing last week.

“We had a 90 percent flower kill on peaches and greater than 80 percent kill on apples,” said Michael Glenn, the director of the Appalachian Research Station in Kearneysville.

Withered peach blossoms from trees at the USDA-Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville show the effect of recent low temperatures in the region.

More low temperatures on Tuesday morning took its toll on the research center’s blackberry crop. Glenn said he found between 50 and 80 percent dead flowers on blackberries as well.

Glenn said damages would delay fruit research a year.

“This is not a question of money, it’s a question of research,” he said.

He said he was surprised at the first freeze at the end of March because the temperature censors were not showing anticipated cold weather.

“We were reading 29 degrees and we were actually getting 25 degrees,” Glenn said, adding that problem has been remedied.

Jefferson Orchards owner Ron Slonaker said he is seeing about 85 percent loss of his apple crop.

Slonaker has 140 acres of apples, and 10 acres of peaches.

“Some of the peaches are alive, but I’m finding a whole lot of dead ones,” he said.

According to the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, the recent freeze has caused damage in Jefferson, Berkeley and Hampshire counties, and the extent of the problem has not been fully uncovered.

“We won’t know the real damage for several weeks,” said Department of Agriculture spokesman Buddy Davison.

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