Fruit Crops Damaged by July Rains

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Fruit crops that were hurting for rain at the beginning of July are suffering from too much of it a month later, a University of Tennessee specialist said Tuesday.

Near-record rainfall in East Tennessee damaged peach and blueberry crops, causing the fruit to absorb too much water and split on the branch, said Dr. David Lockwood, a specialist in tree fruits in the UT’s Agricultural Extension Service.

“When we finally got the rain, it created a little bit of a problem,” Lockwood said. “There was a significant loss due to fruit splitting.”

He said about half of the peach and blueberry crops have been affected. Growers that have processed damaged fruit into other products have fared the best economically, Lockwood said.

Stayman apples, which are prone to split, suffered some damage, but Lockwood said July heat — more than the rain — will likely play a more significant role in the impending apple harvest.

“What we have seen with this excessively hot weather is that the fruits have basically stopped development. The varieties that we thought we’d be harvesting by now are not ready yet,” he said.

Lockwood said he is optimistic about Tennessee’s grape crop, most of which is used for winemaking. This year’s harvest follows one of the best grape years ever. Dry weather in 1998 produced a banner year for the fruit, he said.

“If we get good sunny weather without a lot of cloud cover, without a lot of rainfall between now and harvest, we’re going to end up with a pretty good quality crop.”