Recent cooler temperatures a benefit for local fruit producers

Cooler temperatures are allowing fruit producers to rack up on chill hours
Published: Jan. 15, 2021 at 7:05 PM CST
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - Most of the start of January across the Wiregrass has been rather cloudy and cool. While those cooler temperatures might feel unpleasant to us, they’re providing a big benefit for local fruit producers.

These cooler temperatures have allowed growing fruit to get their required chill hours. Chill hours are any hours during the growing season where temperatures are between 28°F and 43°F. Our portion of the country averages between 600 and 700 chill hours every year. We rack up most of our chill hours during the cold nights between December and February. Days where maximum temperatures only reach the lower 40s opens the flood gates for those chill hours.

Different types of fruits require different amounts of chill hours. Smaller fruits like figs, blueberries, and blackberries require around 200 to 300 chill hours. Larger fruits like apples, pears, and peaches require much more chill hours. Local producers such as Dothan Nurseries try to focus their fruit plants and trees on the target number of 600 to 700 chill hours.

Citrus fruits like lemons, limes, and oranges also require a large number of chill hours, but they need to be protected if the temperatures get below 28°F. Bring those plants indoors if possible. Cover them up and keep lights on them to keep them warm in the colder temperatures.

Mulching can also be used to help the roots of the plant remain warm in colder temperatures.

While some people may shy away from it, trimming and pruning their fruit plants during these colder temperatures can help with better fruit production in the spring. Tight trees and long branches can block the colder air from reaching the fruit. Trimming the tree and keeping it small will provide bigger and better fruit in the spring.

Those cooler temperatures may not feel very comfortable for us, but you’ll see the benefits of it when that fruit is picked in the spring

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