Unseasonably high temperatures worrisome for local orchard

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FINCASTLE, Va. (WDBJ7)-- Stores like Bryant Orchard Farm Market are closed right now. In order for them to open, the temperatures have to be warmer, but in southwest Virginia, that’s already happening.

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"Yeah, these are the actual little fruit buds right here, these buds right here, these are what's going to flower later on,” said Preston, examining one of his peach trees.

The buds may not look like peaches now, but they’re actually more than double the size they should be for the first week in February.

"In a winter like this, extreme winter, mild winter, this does become a concern for us,” said Bryant, who owns Bryant Orchard with his father.

The concern is that these trees will not have enough chilling hours. A chilling hour is when the temperature is between 32 and 45 degrees. The cold is needed for the bloom to stick to the trees; otherwise, the buds will just fall off come spring.

"And in this orchard there's about 15 different varieties, and normally we would pick maybe 2,000 half bushel boxes,” said Bryant.

A lot of stores rely on the peaches from Byrant Farm, and if a refreeze happens, the farm may have to look into shipping in peaches from other parts of the country.

There is an option Bryant says he's considering, though, before making any drastic decisions.

"One thing we could do is delay pruning as long as we possibly can."

Typically pruning happens toward the end of February and could be safely delayed by a few weeks as peach season doesn't start till June.

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