(April 6, 11:35 a.m.) The worst growing-season freeze in a decade could wipe out a quarter of Colorado’s peach crop.

Some smaller fruit crops in the state were hit harder, others not as hard, grower-shippers and researchers said.

Temperatures in the early hours of March 30 bottomed out in the low- to mid-teens in the western Colorado counties of Delta and Mesa, home to the bulk of the state’s fruit production, said Bruce Talbott, orchard manager for Palisade, Colo.-based Talbott Farms Inc.

“I didn’t expect to find anything (alive),” Talbott said. “But we’re still here.”

Early-blooming plants were still dormant enough to be largely protected from the freeze, he said.

Nevertheless, it was bad enough to put Talbott Farms’s peach losses at about 25%, similar to the state as a whole, Talbott said.

Talbott Farms markets about 500 acres of peaches grown by the company and other growers, Talbott said. About 2,200 acres of peaches are grown in Colorado, said Harold Larsen, interim manager of the Grand Junction, Colo.-based Colorado State University Western Colorado Research Center.

Talbott said apples and pears marketed by Talbott Farms weren’t hurt by the freeze. Early estimates put the company’s apricot and sweet cherry losses at about 50% for each crop, he said.

About 1,300 acres of apples, 500 acres of sweet cherries, 400 acres of pears and 100 acres of apricots are grown in Colorado, Larsen said.

Plums also were hit hard by the freeze, Larsen said. Colorado produces about 100 acres of plums, he said.

The state’s apricot and plum crops are “pretty well toast,” Larsen said. The fate of other crops had yet to be determined as of April 3, but Larsen was optimistic that, based on bud loss in his research center orchard, the damage would not be devastating.

“In general, it looks to me like things are probably going to be OK,” he said.

It’s not until about May 10 in Mesa County and June 1 in Delta County, however, that crops are considered out of the reach of freezes, Larsen said.