Microclimates control peach varieties

By: James Hopkins Email
By: James Hopkins Email

Peaches are big business in the Grand Valley and there are several varieties of that flourish here, but have you ever wondered why?

It's all about the weather and the science of the microclimate. The temperature can differ greatly in the 15 or so miles from Grand Junction to Palisade, but when it comes to harvesting the perfect peach farmers measure it in feet, not miles.

Talbott farms has been growing peaches for generations. "We've been in the peach business since the late 1920's," says Harry Talbott. Over the past 8 decades the way peaches are planted and harvested has grown, greatly. "The old miners used dynamite to blow a hole in the ground to plant a tree," says Talbott. Modern growers have one thing in common with the first farmers, they still can't control the weather. Now, they're learning from it. "We've learned that the same variety planted on different parcels will come off at different times, as much as ten day's difference," says Talbott.

Why? microclimates. Also known as the variations within the overall climate of an area and palisade is full of them. "The temperature can change in just a matter of a few yards," says Joe Ramey of the National Weather Service. And it can be more than just a few degrees. "It can vary 6 to 8 degrees form ridge to pocket," says Talbott.

Many factors go into why the weather can differ in just a short distance. "Slope aspect and elevation, even just a subtle change nearby can make a huge difference," says Ramey. This huge difference is why the Talbott's are constantly honing their skills, to try to give their peaches a better chance for survival. "We try to match the peach variety to the site," says Talbott. Planting bud hearty peaches in the cooler sites and bud tender ones in the more favorable sites. "The best sites are around the packing shed so the varieties up there are more sensitive," says Talbott.

The packing site is better because its slope is facing towards the spring sun, giving it more abundant daytime heat. The Talbott's have around 50 fields and plant about 15 different varieties of peaches. But they are always trying to evolve. "We have a test block where we have 60–70 varieties we test," says Talbott. All in the hopes of finding the next perfect peach tree.

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