An extreme drought, late freezes, bruising hail, wild winds and even stink bugs and a tornado have made for a challenging season for many Texas peach growers.
"Last year was a super bumper crop for peaches and everything else. This year, all sorts of things have hit us," Parker County grower Ben Walker said.
The drought has been particularly daunting for growers in the Texas Hill Country, where about 40 percent of the state's peach crop is grown, said Jim Kamas, a fruit specialist for the Texas AgriLife Extension Service in Gillespie County.
"Trees under drought stress are susceptible to winter injuries. And we went from 76 degrees on Feb.1 to 11 degrees on Feb. 2. That had some impact. We took a 30 to 50 percent loss on winter injuries after you add in a couple of bouts of spring frost," he said.
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"Considering everything, it could be a lot worse. But if we don't get some rain, it could be really tough next year," Kamas said.
Peach lovers can expect to see smaller fruit this summer, said Jon Green, the extension agent in Parker County.
"The size is going to be smaller than we've had in years; that's due to the drought," Green said.
The good news is that less moisture means concentrated taste.
"The flavor is going to be great. A dry year makes for a tasty peach; there just won't be quite as many this season," Green said.
But not everyone is reporting a spotty crop.
At Larken Farms in Waxahachie, Ken Halverson says he's having a good year, despite a tornado that took out a handful of his 7,000 peach trees.
"We have a water well, and that keeps the peaches going. We've got 35 varieties. If the weather is just right we can eat peaches from the middle of April until the middle of August," Halverson said.
"They're really good this year," he said. "We don't use any chemicals on them. When you eat a peach here, it's going to be all over your shirt."
Walker, whose orchard is near Poolville, said this year has been one of his most challenging.
"We've all had terrible problems from the drought. But I've also had a lot of mechanical damage from strong winds in early June that blew the peaches against branches -- that scars and blackens them up," Walker said.
He also faced a new adversary this season: stink bugs.
"They get on things real early and hard. They bite them, and it causes hard spots. I've never run into this before," Walker said.
Gary Hutton of Hutton Farms, the biggest peach grower in Parker County, said his crop made it through the drought, late freezes, hail and high winds.
"I've had a little of everything. I don't have as big a crop as last year. The dry weather has been real hard this year, but I've still got quite a few," Hutton said.
Peach lovers won't have to worry about a shortage at the 27th annual Parker County Peach Festival on July 9, Hutton said. Last year, the one-day festival in downtown Weatherford drew 35,000 people.
"We'll have plenty for everybody," Hutton said.
Steve Campbell, 817-390-7981