What happens when the “chill” is gone?

The warmer-than-normal temperatures of 2012 –the fourth warmest year on record in South Carolina—signal potential challenges for growers of the state’s best known fruit. Peaches need cold weather to produce flowers and fruit. What happens when the chill is gone? “In the spring, many of us think it’s longer days and warmer temperatures that start the growth cycle,” said Clemson University plant biologist Douglas Bielenberg. “Actually, peach leaf and flower buds are set the previous summer, then they go dormant in the winter. The trees must get sufficient chilling hours to trigger buds to open. Without this chill time, very few peach varieties will bloom well, it at all.” With research funding from the Clemson University Experiment Station, Bielenberg’s work on plant dormancy and chilling can help breeders and the S.C. peach industry deal with agricultural and economic consequences of climate change.