KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The unusually cold winter virtually wiped out Tennessee’s peach crop, and lack of pollination cut the apple crop nearly in half, a University of Tennessee fruit specialist said Friday.
David Lockwood of the UT Agricultural Extension Service estimated 95 percent of the state’s peach crop is gone.
“We lost a lot of fruit buds when the temperature went below zero in February,” Lockwood said. “The freeze in early March pretty much wiped out the balance of the crop.”
A few peach orchards in West Tennessee survived the weather, he said.
Lockwood estimated 40 percent of Tennessee’s apple crop will be lost because blooms were not pollinated by honeybees.
“We have a pretty serious pollution problem in most (apple) orchards this year,” Lockwood said.
UT entomologist John Skinner, a bee specialist, said Tennessee has a severe shortage of honeybee colonies because parasitic mites have attacked and killed them.
Honeybees not only make honey, but they collect pollen from flowers and transfer it to fruits and vegetables.
Skinner estimated Tennessee’s number of honeybee colonies has dropped from 200,000 in the 1980s to only 40,000 this year.
Skinner developed a pollination directory which farmers can use to locate and contract with beekeepers to pollinate crops.
“The directory is beginning to help,” Skinner said.
Some farmers brought honeybee hives into their orchards during the time apple trees were in bloom, hoping to compensate for the lack of bees. But even orchards with hives did not always produce good fruit. Spring weather often was cool and rainy, and bees won’t fly in those conditions, Skinner said.
The good news about the apple crop is that the 60 percent that survived appears to be of good quality, Lockwood said.
Contact: David Lockwood (423-974-7208)
John Skinner (423-974-7138)