Cold vs. crops: Protecting peaches

Temperatures are expected to dip below freezing for the second night in a row on Wednesday and the frost could take a devastating toll on crops in our area.

Wednesday, we spoke with a peach farmer about what he does to prepare. Spencer McLeod with McLeod Farms in Chesterfield County explained that he's doing everything he can to save his peaches.

"Any type of freeze event can be detrimental to your peach crop. We won't know for a week what the damage is," McLeod explained.

McLeod's family has been farming peaches for five generations in Chesterfield County.

Wednesday night, he'll use giant fans or wind machines to warm his orchards. "We are protecting as many trees as we can. We have about 30 wind machines that we ran last night and will run tonight."

McLeod will also line his crops with hay bales, which will be set on fire.

"There's heat generated by the straw burning. The smoke adds a layer of protection to blanket the peaches and the wind machines, we're really trying to use the heat from the ground to heat the orchard."

The wind machines blow that hot air over and through the crops. Dozens will work until dawn to keep the crops warm.

"You can get sleep from time to time, but I think the nerves kind of keep you up too," McLeod explained.

The stakes are high. While the farm does produce other crops, peaches are a big part of their livelihood. "There's not many other measures you can take other than crossing your fingers and saying a prayer."

South Carolina produced more than 70,000 tons of peaches in 2012, according to the US Agriculture Statistics Service.