FREDERICKSBURG (AP) – Late winter cold weather damaged some Hill Country peach buds, but growers still have high hopes for a strong summer crop.

Russ Studebaker of the Studebaker Farm in Blumentahl split a few blossoms on his 30-acre grove this week to check for budding fruit.

“For the most part, we’ve got a pretty hearty crop,” said Studebaker, who markets some of the tourist-popular produce on stands along highways.

The late-winter temperature drop into the 20s thinned some early blooming varieties of peaches, according to Dan Rohrer, president of the Hill Country Fruit Council, the San Antonio Express-News reported Thursday.

Farmers would have had to thin the crops anyway, Rohrer said, warning that a spring frost could still cause a lot of damage.

“We don’t want to be overconfident at this point,” Rohrer said. “We have forecasts showing in the 30-degree range, in the middle 30s — I think Saturday — coming up, and on the longer-term forecast right around Easter. … The middle 30s are fine. It’s that 30 degrees and 28 degrees that compromises cell structure.”

Studebaker grew up in a farming family in Harlingen. About 20 years ago he invested his savings from the U.S. Merchant Marines in the peach farm, run with the help of his three sons and his 80-year-old father, Joe.

Studebaker is in the second year of a state-funded experiment with growing with “high tunnels,” which remain covered during the winter as shelter from freezes, but later are opened to allow the fruit to mature.

Texas agriculture official are assessing the economics of a growing method also being used in other peach growing states. Local farmers have been encouraged by the flavor, output, and the extended season garnering by introducing varieties that mature earlier from growing in the tunnels, said Jim Kamsas with the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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