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US apple growers expect fantastic season, but not all states so fortunate

Fortune is smiling on many apple growers across the US this season but not all are quite so lucky. While New York and Connecticut are seeing a strong comeback after a difficult season last year, Michigan growers are expecting a drop in quality as they struggle with abnormally high temperatures.

New York to get sweet season after sour 2016
Apple crops this year in New York are prospering due to lots of rain, lack of frost and absence of drought, which set them back last year.

Drought and an early spring freeze made for a smaller but sweeter New York apple last. But the quantity was down from the average crop. This year, the New York Apple Association has high hopes for the crop.

“The quality this year will be fantastic,” New York Apple Association Public Relations Director Julia Stewart said. “We’ve had stable weather from bloom to blossom.”

New York state ranks second in the nation in apple production behind Washington state, Stewart said. The association’s projected apple harvest for the state this year is 28.5 million cartons or 1.1 billion pounds of apples.

“We had 28 million cartons last year,” Stewart said. “This year’s crop is about average for New York.”

Stewart said the crop size is the only thing that’s going to be average this year.

“The apples are going to have a good fruit size and a good finish, meaning they’re also going to look good,” she said. “The flavor will also be great this year.”

Consumers also should have no problem finding whatever kind of apple they desire as growers will have an ample supply of a variety of apples.

Connecticut bounces back from a disastrous 2016
Like New York, the apple crop in Connecticut also faced a troubling year in 2016. After enduring drought and an untimely spring frost, nearly half of the harvest statewide was lost. But for 2017, things are looking up for apple growers in the state.

This years' crop has bounced back by the bushel in yield, colour and flavour according to Brian Kelliher, president of the Connecticut Apple Marketing Board.

“It was a very poor crop last year, but this year we have a strong bloom, lots of flowers we call, ‘snowball blooms’ on the trees, great pollinating weather and plenty of rain in the springtime, so we have a large crop of apples this year,” he said. 

State Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky said in a press release that apples are one of the state’s largest and most important agricultural crops, with an average yearly harvest of about a half-million bushels worth $12 million. However, apple season in Connecticut has evolved beyond just picking fruit.

Warm temperatures threaten quality in Michigan
While mother nature has been smiling on apple growers in New York and Connecticut, Michigan growers aren't proving as fortunate.

Abnormally warm temperatures are posing a challenge for Michigan apple growers, particularly those who are harvesting sensitive varieties like Honeycrisp, Sweet Tango, and Goldens.

Michigan Farm Bureau Horticultural Specialist Kevin Robson said Michigan's apple growing belt is seeing record temperatures over 90 degrees as growers enter the early stages of the annual harvest.

"The consumer isn't going to see a difference in quality," Robson said. "It's the farmers that have to take the added precautions in preparing them for storage."

The growers' challenge is to get "latent heat" out of the fruit before they are cooled for storage or shipment, Robson said. Carbon dioxide can accumulate in the fruit and harm the fruit if they are not allowed to cool properly, he said.

"This just goes to show how much our fruit industry depends on the mood of Mother Nature," Robson said.

Publication date: 9/26/2017


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