Freeze Could Spell Disaster For Arkansas Peach Grower

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(St. Francis County, AR) Tuesday night's temperature is critical for peach growers in eastern Arkansas along Crowley's Ridge.

With temperatures expected to drop below freezing, fragile peach blossoms could be damaged or the entire crop destroyed.

There are only a few peach orchards still operating in St. Francis County, and a
freeze could mean disaster for peach grower Kenneth Nichols.

"There's nothing I can do about it. You know I'll worry, you can't help but worry," said Nichols.

After 25 years of growing peaches in St. Francis County, Nichols knows one thing: the weather can be your best friend or your worst enemy.

"Cold, frost, hail, too much rain, not enough rain It's always the weather," said Nichols.

Nichols has 700 peach trees on Crowley's Ridge and is worried an overnight freeze Tuesday could ruin this year's crop.

He'd like for the wind to keep blowing like it did all day Tuesday and for temperatures to stay mild.

That's not what's forecast, however.

"And it gets 30, 29 degrees and we get a pretty good frost, then we'll have some damage. If the wind will blow and it will stay above 30 degrees, then we'll be alright," said Nichols.

Right now his "babies" are in the most fragile part of their growing process.

Some peaches are still in the bloom, giving them a little protection from the cold.

But as Nichols showed us, others have found freedom.

"This is the peach here. It's split the shuck, it's out of the bloom, ready to start growing," said Nichols.

And if the tiny peaches make it through a cold night on Crowley's Ridge, they'll grow and be ready for harvest in a few months.

Kenneth Nichols hopes to get three bushels from each of his trees, weather permitting.

"You know, whatever happens I'll get up in the morning and look. That's all you can do," said Nichols.

He's hoping some of his peaches will survive a freeze, but knows it's out of his hands for now.

"We just have to pray...and God's going to do what He's going to do," said Nichols.

Nichols says he doesn't use warming fires in his orchard, because usually only one side of the peach tree gets any heat and the other side freezes.

We'll check with Nichols Wednesday to see if his peach crop survived the cold.