2011 Harvest Outlook
Weather, few pests and diseases graced area apple orchards
Farm News staff writer
Jefferson – While the weather conditions this spring delayed blossom times in Iowa orchards, growers expect to harvest an abundant apple crop this fall.
“I think we’re in the garden spot of the state this year, and we’ve got a nicecrop coming on,” said Jerald Deal, who owns Deal’s Orchard, near Jefferson.
Deal and his family raise 25 apple varieties on 45 acres.
“The heat in late July didn’t hurt the apple trees, and the cooler nights are helping bring out the color in the apples.”
There have been no major insect or disease problems in 2011 for Iowa apple growers, Deal said, who noted that he is already picking some early varieties, including Early Gold apples.
He expects this year’s apple harvest to be a major improvement from last year’s short crop, which was triggered by a late-spring freeze that occurred at blossom time on Mother’s Day.
The 2011 apple crop is also doing well in north central Iowa, added Lynnette Fevold, who has owned and operated Apple Ridge Orchard, near Iowa Falls, with her husband, Mark, since 1986.
“This season sure beats last year. Everything is in good condition so far,” Fevold said.”
The apples should offer good quality and should be plentiful this year.”
Although the extreme heat that hit Iowa this summer could hinder apples’ ability to store well, the Fevolds applied a calcium product with their regular foliar spraying program to help keep the fruit firmer for a longer period of time.
The Fevolds, who raise more than 20 apple varieties on 13 acres, noted that Wealthy apples will be among the first varieties ready for harvest in early September.
“Old-time varieties like Wealthy and Cortlands are some of our best-sellers for baking, while Honeycrisps have taken over as the top-selling variety in the eating market,” said Fevold.
Apple Ridge Orchard produces 2,300 bushels of apples in a typical year, she said.
Top-selling varieties at Deal’s Orchard, which harvests 15,000 to 16,000 bushels in an average year, include Jonathans, Golden Delicious, Chieftains, Galas, Red Delicious and Honeycrisps, which should be ready by early to mid September.
While customers can stop by the orchard to buy apples, the Deals also deliver to approximately 30 area grocery stores, serving customers in a 70-mile radius around Jefferson.
Deal’s Orchard presses 25,000 to 30,000 gallons of apple cider each year. New for 2011 is hard apple cider, which the Deal family makes themselves.
Fruit can be high-risk
Apple production is a long-time tradition in the Deal family. Deal’s grandfather, Frank Deal, started the orchard in 1917.
Deal, who started full-time in the family business in 1975, is thinking about expanding the operation, since he and his wife, Cindy, have two sons who are interested in coming back to the farm.
Operating an orchard can be a high-risk business, Deal noted. “Hail and damaging winds are never good, so we hold our breath every time a storm comes through,” said Deal, who will never forget an early August storm with devastating winds that ripped through the area in 1989, slashing the apple crop to 6,000 bushels.
“Things can change in minutes in this business.”
Apple scab resistance
While Iowa apple growers have enjoyed an excellent growing season this year, producers in other parts of the country are finding that some of the most commonly used fungicides are no longer effective at controlling apple scab.
Janna Beckerman, an associate professor of botany and plant pathology at Purdue University, said that extensive, long-term use of four popular fungicides has led to resistances in apples in Indiana and Michigan, the focus of her study.
“The fungicides that are regularly used to control scab have started to fail. But the most disturbing thing we found is that many of the samples we tested were resistant to all four fungicides. It’s kind of like multidrug resistance in antibiotics. This is full-blown resistance.”
Apple scab, caused by the fungus venturia inaequalis, is highly destructive to apples, causing brown lesions on leaves and fruit.
A single lesion can reduce an apple’s value by 85 percent. Over time, the scabby lesion will crack and allow insects, other fungi and bacteria inside, causing a loss of the crop.
“An orchard grower that has this could lose blocks of an orchard, or, depending on the amount of diversity in the orchard, they could lose the entire crop,” Beckerman said.
It’s thought that when organisms adapt to form resistance, that change will weaken the organism in some other way.
The Purdue study, which was conducted with Michigan State University Professor George Sundin, showed apple scab, on the contrary, is becoming resistant to fungicides with no apparent fitness penalty to itself.
“Having these multiple resistances to fungicides doesn’t debilitate them in any way,” said Beckerman, who noted that about 12 percent of the apple scab samples tested were resistant to all four fungicides.
The only options apple growers have is to use older fungicides that are tightly regulated, require more frequent application and are more expensive, Beckerman said.
Contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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