Helicopters Used To Save Porter Peach Farmer's Crop

Tuesday, April 15th 2014, 7:01 am
By: Dave Davis

A convoy of helicopters was called in to save the peaches in Porter. When temperatures dropped below freezing Monday night, the choppers kept the crops warm.

Now, farmers at Livesay Orchards are breathing a big sigh of relief. All is well at the Livesay Orchards, thanks to the help of three helicopters and a big assist from the thermometer.

The mercury never dipped below 28, the threshold where damage to peach buds begins.

4/14/14 Related Story: Oklahoma Peach Farmers Take Precautions For Freezing Temperatures

"Things went real. Looks like we'll have a good crop. We were just right close to critical temperatures. And actually, without the helicopters, we might have dropped - in some of the colder spots - enough to have had some damage," said Kent Livesay, co-owner of Livesay Orchards.

Livesay said hiring helicopters to fly over cold orchards is fairly common; he's been doing it for a couple decades.

It may seem strange, but the choppers do help. The helicopters work because of something called temperature inversion. At 4 a.m., the surface was measured at 30 degrees, but just nine yards in the air, it was 35 degrees, and those rotor blades were pushing the warmer air down onto the trees.

A single degree can be the difference between a peach buds living and dying.

Livesay told us, in 1989 he lost a third of his crop when the temperature was 27, just a degree lower than Tuesday morning.

But that day he didn't fly helicopters.

After dodging a bullet Tuesday morning, Livesay can finally take a deep breath, hope for no more frost scares and start thinking about his harvest.

"The next step, actually, is to wait until the peaches grow a little more and start thinning them off so they can get spaced out and get really nice sized," he said.

Livesay said the crop may be a bit later this year, but the peaches will be ready in time for summer.

After the sun came up Livesay inspected his orchards and said he found no significant damage to any of his peach trees.