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  • Author or Editor: Skyler Simnitt x
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The study focuses on frost protection for early-season (early-ripening) peach (Prunus persica) varieties, which are an important crop for producers in the southeastern United States. Using in-depth interviews with four major Georgia peach producers, we explore their frost protection management strategies. This information is the first step in developing a comprehensive research agenda to advise cost-effective frost protection methods for peach cultivation. We found that peach producers are concerned about frost impacts on their crops. Although early-season peach varieties are particularly susceptible to frost impacts, producers still dedicate significant acreage to these varieties, aiming to extend the market window, satisfy sales contracts, and meet obligations for hired labor. However, early-season varieties do not result in high profits, so producers prefer to concentrate on frost protection for mid- and late-season varieties. Producers employ a variety of frost protection methods, including passive methods (such as planting sensitive varieties in areas less susceptible to frost and adjusting pruning/thinning schedules) and active methods (such as frost protection irrigation and wind machines). The choice among active frost protection methods is based on factors such as the planning horizon, initial investment needs, frequency of frost events, and the effectiveness of the frost protection method. Problem areas that producers identified included improving the effectiveness of frost protection methods; reducing initial investments required to install frost protection systems; and employing better spatial targeting and configuration of frost protection strategies (to reduce investment costs while maintaining or improving the effectiveness of frost protection). Although the initial investment costs of enhanced protection systems may limit producers from actually adopting such methods, the operating costs of such systems are relatively low and have a limited effect on the decision to employ frost protection during a particular frost event. However, producers use information about critical temperatures for different bud stages, and hence, improving the quality of information regarding frost susceptibility can help producers make better frost protection decisions (and potentially reduce electricity costs and water use for frost protection).

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