Tragedy struck peach growers in Georgia this spring. Experts estimate a 80 to 90% loss of Georgia’s peach crops. The impact is significant to Georgia locals and US residents alike. But how does a crop death happen on this large of a scale?

Global warming in Georgia

Last winter was the hottest recorded in Georgia and its surrounding states. Temperatures stayed above 50 degrees and resulted in peach trees developing earlier then they should. About 90% of the peaches were in full bloom by March when two cold snaps hit.

Peach trees need about 1,100 chill hours in winter to bloom in spring. Due to the unusual warm weather, Georgia’s peach crops only had 730 chill hours. The peaches either died or stopped growing at the size of a golf ball.

We know in Georgia that winter is the season that’s warming the most quickly. It’s swarming about twice as fast as the other seasons.

Pan Knox, Agricultural Climatologist

1,700 trees yielded a tenth of the fruit they usually produce. The United States Agricultural Department declared 18 Georgia counties natural disaster areas. Another 38 counties were made eligible for federal loans.

The economic impact

The climate isn’t the only thing negatively impacted by Georgia’s crop loss. Georgia peach growers like Lawton Pearson, lost an estimated $119.5 million profit. Money spent preparing the next year’s crops, paying workers, and taking care of their own families.

We’ve had some off-crops, some bad years, but we haven’t had anything like this since 1955. We just don’t have a peach crop.

Lawton Pearson, Georgia Pearson Farm

Economic impact is employees earning and spending money in local communities. The loss is approximate loss is $71 million. Most growers had to lay off their workers.

Many workers were in the states on a H2-A visa provided by their employers. The visa allows foreign employees to work seasonally in the states. With the death of so many crops, thousands of workers had to return to their countries.

What can save the peach industry?

Other state’s peach crops have also suffered. Georgia’s neighbor state South Carolina, lost 50-70% of their fruit. Illinois, California, and Colorado’s peach crops survived the winter. With the loss of Georgia’s peach crop these states are expected to fill the void.

Grocery stores are already expecting a rise in the fruit’s prices. Some of the fruits have already been marked at $40 a box. Grocers are hoping the other state’s peach crops will be enough to bring inflation back down.

Georgia community reactions

In addition to climate and economic suffering, the local communities have also taken the loss to heart. Georgia peaches are a delicacy in the summertime. Many restaurants use Georgia’s peaches as part of their attraction to tourists.

Residents in Georgia are saddened that they won’t be spending their summers eating the sweet peaches. It seems silly to mourn a fruit, but the memories so many people have eating Georgia peaches with family and friends is important to note. The emotional impact on Georgia is just as important as the economy and climate.

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