Chill hours promise a strong New Jersey peach crop - The Packer

Chill hours promise a strong New Jersey peach crop

05/31/2013 11:35:00 AM
Andrew Nelson

The increase in plantings has been concentrated in Gloucester, Salem and Cumberland counties, Maccherone said.

Growers planting new trees include Holtzhauser Farms and Heilig Orchards in Mullica Hill, Gloucester County; Melick’s Town Farm in Oldwick, Hunterdon County; Donaldson Farms in Hackettstown, Warren County; and Terhune Orchards in Princeton, Mercer County.

It’s not hard to figure out what’s driving the increase in supply, Maccherone said.

“With a trend toward increased prices, there will be a corresponding increase in tree planting,” he said.

According to data collected by the New Jersey Agricultural Statistics Service, the 2012 season average price was 66 cents per pound, 5 cents per pound higher than the previous year.

Jerry Frecon, Rutgers professor emeritus and a former agricultural agent specializing in fruit, said industrywide trends have benefited growers of New Jersey peaches.

“We see some definite positive changes in our peach industry, as acreage has recently increased to meet the demand for tree-ripened locally grown Jersey fresh peaches.”

Frecon said many new plantings are designed to extend the season by a couple of weeks either at the beginning or the end of the season, which should run from about late June through September.

Speaking of trends, it’s not just locally grown that has driven growth in the New Jersey peach industry, Frecon said.

“Over the past 20 years, we’ve seen an increase in the types and varieties of peaches we can plant because of global warming,” he said.

“We just don’t have the cold winters we used to, which enables growers to worry less about buds freezing and allows for growing some high-quality, bud-tender varieties. We can grow novel varieties, low-acid peaches and white and yellow-fleshed nectarines.”

So far, the 2013 season is tracking closer to normal, unlike 2012, when high February temperatures forced an early bloom in April, Maccherone said.

High winds and storms also caused havoc on trees then, he said.

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