A Michigan apple orchard.

Aug 6, 2019
Early apple outlook appears good

The total 2019 U.S. fresh and processed apple production was estimated at 267.2 million 42-pound boxes, at the Premier Apple Cooperative meeting in Syracuse, New York, on June 25.

The forecast indicated a 9% rise from 2018, with both Washington state and Michigan crops anticipating a 14% increase.

USDA reported the final total for 2018 is 244.2 boxes, below the record of 282 million in 2014.

A June report issued by Dawn Drake, manager of the Michigan Processing Apple Growers Division of the Michigan Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Association (MACMA), indicated the Michigan apple crop is recovering well from 2018, when the season was crimped by a frost. Other tree fruit crops also were faring well.

Dawn Drake
Dawn Drake

In southwest Michigan, crop potential was reported to be good with the exception of inconsistent return bloom on Golden Delicious, Honeycrisp and Jonagold in most of the area. Apple quality appeared to be good with some areas of light hail damage reported. Excessive rain and cooler than normal conditions in May and June created challenges for disease control and chemical thinning. The tart cherry crop harvest was expected to begin the week of July 7. Apple maturity is believed to be about 5-7 days behind normal.

On the Fruit Ridge near Sparta, Michigan, chemical thinning was complete; some varieties needed very little chemical thinning. Return bloom on most Honeycrisp and Golden Delicious was less than desirable.

Growers predicted good quality overall. Some winter tree damage in low areas was reported on Fuji and Gala. The area received above-normal rainfall to date. Apple maturity was estimated to be about seven days behind normal. Localized hail in the area resulted in some tree trauma but only light damage reported to the affected fruitlets.

In west-central Michigan, there was an overall good return bloom with the exception of some Honeycrisp blocks. Chemical thinning was completed inland while the thinning window in orchards near the lake was still open. Cooler and wetter-than-normal weather had created challenges during thinning. Overall, there was good crop potential expected with maturity believed to be about 10 days behind.

In northern Michigan, apple thinning began in less than ideal conditions. Growers reported fruit growth to be excellent even with the cooler and wetter than normal weather. Spotty bloom was reported in some areas on Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Crispin and Honeycrisp. Fruit maturity is believed to be 10 to 14 days behind normal.

The MACMA report indicated New York production in the Champlain and Hudson Valley areas was estimating production totals near the 2018 levels. The cool wet spring has continued to delay the completion of chemical thinning along Lake Ontario in western New York. The wet conditions made planting of new trees difficult. The crop in western New York is expected to be down from last year due to over cropping and drought last summer. Honeycrisp bloom was reported light on many farms as Cortland and Empire bloom was also reported light. Similar to 2018, apple maturity was estimated to be 7-10 days behind normal.

In Pennsylvania, MACMA indicated tart cherry harvest was expected to begin on June 20. A good apple crop was reported with total production believed to be at or near the 2018 totals. Good quality was reported overall. Significantly less rainfall than the near-record 2018 season was seen, but there was still adequate moisture to date. Apple maturity was reported to be approximately 7 days ahead of normal.

A “very good” apple crop was reported in Virginia, MACMA indicated. Some apple production areas in the state have received light hail but overall exposure was vastly less than normal to date. Golden Delicious and Yorks were reported to be lighter in some orchards. Overall, a “very good” crop of Gala and Red Delicious was expected in Virginia. Growers reported the singled-out king fruit throughout the tree was encouraging for quality and total yield. Fruit maturity was reported to be near the traditional norm.

In North Carolina, there was more than adequate rainfall to date. However, total rainfall was considerably less than the near-record rainfall of 2018. The overall apple crop is believed to be approximately 65% to 70% of a normal crop with the Golden Delicious variety being off the most. Both Gala and Rome were reported to be less than a full crop in many areas while some Red Delicious have been reported to be light. Crop maturity was believed to be a few days ahead of normal.

In Ontario, MACMA reported, chemical thinning was underway in the Georgian Bay area. A “very good” crop was expected on most varieties with the exception of Northern Spy. Near-record rainfall and cooler-than-normal temperatures to date had apple maturity almost two weeks behind normal.

MACMA said Washington state sweet cherry harvest was underway. Good quality overall was seen with some varieties experiencing smaller fruit size. The total sweet cherry crop was estimated to be 21 to 22 million boxes packed for the state.

Even with aggressive chemical thinning, some hand thinning was expected in many apple orchards due to crop load.

The 2019 apple crop is projected to be between 130-135 million packed boxes, which would be approximately 14% higher than the 2018 crop. Apple maturity was believed to be about 7-10 days behind normal after being between 2-3 weeks behind at bud break. Overall apple quality was reported to be good with the exception of some localized light hail damage. Current process prices for juice apples were $110-$140 per ton and peelers at $180-$210 per ton.

– Gary Pullano, managing editor

Above, crop potential was reported to be good on farms in southwest Michigan. Photos: Stephen Kloosterman

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