Peach orchard standing strong in the face of drought

LEACHVILLE, AR (KAIT) -  Despite recent rain, the yearly deficit has swelled to over seven inches.

According to the climate prediction center, the eastern half of Region 8 has been "abnormally dry" for the last two weeks.

Perhaps one of the hardest hit areas so far is located in the heart of Mississippi County.

Leon Swihart farms a sandy, nine-acre peach orchard.

He says mature peach trees can consume a whopping 10 to 15 gallons of water per day, pulling limited moisture from an already dry soil.

"The roots go down about two or three feet deep. When you have an extremely long drought, the roots, they finally get all the moisture out of the soil and the fruit quit growing. We'll need a good rain about every two weeks."

Even though Swihart picked up about two inches of rain toward the beginning of last week, loose, sandy soil drains quickly.

The rain is needed now more than ever because Swihart Orchards does not irrigate.

"We've had about 3" total in about the past two months. It's really been a short spring on the rains."

He adds that the peach growing season arrived early in Region 8.

"Our blooms were about a month early. there was like one peach or bloom per inch."

However, if the rains hold off any longer, Swihart's yield could be cut in half.

Either way, he expects an early harvest season, beginning the first of July.

"They don't have a good taste if you wait 50 days to get any moisture, though."

Click here for the Climate Prediction Center Drought Monitor.

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