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Only 485 hours below 45 degrees at CREC, Thorsby as
The warmest fall in recent
history has fruit growers and researchers paying close attention to weather
forecasts in early 2016. Many fruit crops require a specific amount of dormancy
or “rest” that occurs with the cold temperatures of winter, allowing them to
bloom, fruit and grow normally when temperatures rise in the spring. Fruits
grown in Alabama vary greatly in their chilling requirements. Fruits with high
chill requirements including some cultivars of peaches, nectarines, plums,
apples and cherries may have delayed blooming and reduced fruit size and yield
if chilling is inadequate.
For this reason researchers and
growers monitor winter chilling to better understand and predict crop
performance and management needs of various crops. Temperatures between 32 and 55 degrees F are considered ideal
chilling. For many years all hours below 45 degrees F between October 1 and
February 15 have been recorded as a standard method of logging “chill hour”
accumulation for each given year, while providing valuable data for comparison
between crop years. On January 1, 2016, we had
logged only 253 hours below 45 degrees F at the Chilton Research and Extension
Center in Thorsby, marking the lowest Jan. 1 winter chilling accumulation on
record since the Chilton Area Horticulture Substation staff began logging chill
hours in the fall of 1956, some 57 years ago.
Thankfully, since the first
week in January colder temperatures are bringing a much needed increase in
chill hour accumulation. Even so, this winter is currently the third warmest on
record in the past 57 years.
The 253 hours logged by January
1, 2016, compares to the 57 year average of 586 hours, or 481 hours averaged by
Jan. 1 during the past ten years. The next lowest Jan. 1 chilling accumulation recorded
occurred in 2007, which resulted in the fourth warmest winter on the 57 year
record with 846 total chill hours by Feb. 15.
In the past 57 years, the four warmest
years on record, logging under 360 hours by Jan. 1, averaged a total winter
chilling accumulation of 730 hours by Feb. 15, compared to the 57 year average
of 1190 hours, and the past 10 year average of 1012 hours logged under 45
degrees by Feb. 15.
Current research related to
breaking dormancy and materials labeled
to provide some chilling replacement in fruit crops will be discussed at the
Chilton Area Peach Production Meeting in Clanton on January 25. To register for
the meeting please call the Chilton County Extension Office at (205) 280-6268.
Chill hour accumulations for the Southeast can be viewed online at
http://agroclimate.org/tools/Chill-Monitoring/, as well as a wide variety of
crop weather related forecasts and tools helpful to growers and the agriculture
ACES, Regional Ext. Agent
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