STONEWALL, TX - It's home to some of the finest vineyards and sweetest peaches on the planet. The Texas Hill Country west of Austin brings visitors from all over to its scenic countryside every year.
This year, however, has been a bit challenging for Hill Country peach farmers. The exceptionally mild winter has taken its toll on the orchards.
Jimmy Duecker is the owner of Burg's Corner, a family peach business located near Fredericksburg off of Highway 290. Duecker has been in the peach business for several decades and has seen a lot over the years, but this mild winter took him by surprise.
"We had peaches changing color in March. I have never in my life seen that and so it's been an early crop. We've had peaches since mid-April this year," Duecker said.
Most trees need at least 750 hours of chilling during the winter months, but this past year received much less. That means this year their family orchard has fewer peaches to harvest than normal. Duecker is expecting only 15 to 20 percent of his crops to produce.
"These trees have to have that cold because they don't really know what to do. It's like they have a hormone within that tree and it takes a certain amount of cold to trigger that," Duecker explained.
Duecker said winters over the past 10 years have been milder than he's ever remembered and is now planting more peach trees that need less chill time, just in case this trend continues. Despite a lower than average harvest, all is not lost if you are hoping to get your hands on some sweet peaches.
"Right now, you can find a pretty good abundance of peaches in the Texas Hill Country. We'll have them all summer long, but I can tell you this, we are not going to have the half bushels available like we had in other years," Duecker said.
Duecker is hopeful that next year's harvest will bring more peaches to their store.
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