Cold weather takes a toll on crops

SC Peach Festival In Gaffney This Weekend
A basked of peaches is pictured in the file photo from the SC Peach Festival in Gaffney.

(WSPA) — Spring is here and that means it’s almost strawberry season in the Carolinas. But the recent blast of winter weather had a big impact on local crops.

This winter’s roller coaster temperatures created a challenge for farmers. Delicate strawberries bloomed early, putting them in danger of dying when temperatures dropped.

Farmers took steps to protect crops. That effort included employees working all night to cover the crops and keep sprinklers on to reduce the effects of freezing cold.

Billy Ledford owns Beechwood Farms in Travelers Rest.

Ledford says thanks to weather forecasts and relentless work from employees, he expects a good harvest.

Ledford estimates about five percent of the strawberry crop was lost.

Other farms did not fare so well.

The state Department of Agriculture said peach farmers suffered the worst crop damage they’ve seen in years because of freezing temperatures.

An unseasonably warm winter caused the peach crop to bloom early before temperatures plummeted last week.

The S.C. Department of Agriculture said in a statement that farmers hope to have 10 to 15 percent of their usual crop.

Peaches should be available in limited quantities in July and August.

Strawberries experienced a 15 percent loss across the state, while blueberry farmers in the Upstate and Midlands report significant losses like those of peaches, according to the agriculture department.

It will be at least three weeks before peach farmers know the total impact of the freeze.

The agriculture department says South Carolina produces the largest number of peaches on the east coast and the peach crop is annually valued at $90 million with a $300 million economic impact.

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