New Jersey started the year with excessive rains, but a cold winter and excellent spring growing weather promised a good season for peaches and blueberries, grower-shippers said.
“Knock on wood, but it was the best winter for dormancy and the best spring we’ve seen in a long time,” said Phil Neary, director of operations and grower relations for Sunny Valley International, Glassboro, N.J.
“We’re not out of the woods yet, but we’re nearing the time where (severe weather events) are unlikely.”
Plenty of moisture, followed by plenty of warm, sunny May days promised very good quality, Neary said.
Peaches bloomed in mid-April, right on time, with shipments expected to begin after the Fourth of July, Neary said.
Sunny Valley expects to market about 1 million boxes of New Jersey peaches this year, similar to last year.
Yellow-flesh peaches will comprise about 87% of the company’s stone fruit program this year, nectarines 7% and white-flesh peaches 6%.
The company expects to ship a few more white peaches this year, and fewer nectarines, Neary said.
Between February and early May New Jersey fruit crops endured unusually wet weather, but by mid-May, peach, blueberry, apple and other crops had enjoyed a week of dry weather, and things were looking up, said Jerry Frecon, agricultural agent with the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station in Clayton.
“Fruit crops are normal in terms of development,” Frecon said. “The bloom was fairly normal. We’ve had fairly good growing weather. It’s kind of strange — we had some heavy downpours, now it’s dried out. Except for poorly drained fields, it should be a fairly normal season.”
In May, growers were playing catch up, said Ben Casella, field representative for the New Jersey Farm Bureau, Trenton.
“Things are looking better,” he said. “If the good weather continues, they’ll probably catch up. Strawberries are coming off nicely. Somehow, it always manages to come out in the wash.”
Deals will probably begin later than usual, on average, but not by much, Casella said.
Peaches, in particular, had a very heavy set this year, Frecon said. About 60 million to 65 million pounds of peaches are expected to ship from the Garden State this year, comparable to last year, he said.
Because of the heavy rains early in the season, soil moisture levels are high, resulting in big sizing on early season fruit.