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Capital Region, NY

Drought slows apple growth but increases sugar content in some orchards

New York is ranked second in the nation for apple production. The US Department of Agriculture reports that in 2021, 44,000 acres of orchards in the state yielded 1.33 billion pounds of apples with a value of $345 million.

Three commercial apple orchards in and near the Capital Region say the sparse rain of this summer tends to keep apples a little smaller, while at the same time concentrating the sugars in them.

Peter Ten Eyck of Indian Ladder Farms near Voorheesville irrigates with groundwater. Those trees that got the extra water this summer sport bigger apples. At the verge of harvest, Ten Eyck said, the fruit is just as good, just a size smaller than normal.

Kevin Bowman of Bowman Orchards in Rexford said he irrigates the whole operation and the size and quantity of apples is normal as a result. He does find that the sugar content is higher this year.

Bellinger’s Orchard co-owner Ken Coyne would certainly welcome some rain. The orchard has more than 60 varieties of apple trees. The varieties of mature apple trees do have fruit this year. Some apples, like the Cortlands, are reaching normal size; others are still small, though quite tasty.

“I’ve been eating them, they’re very high in sugar and full of flavor,” Coyne said.


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