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Michigan apple crop up 25 to 30 percent

Michigan apple growers have been blessed with very good weather this year.

Diane Smith, executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee, said everything is looking pretty good for the state’s 2018 apple crop. “We have a good-sized crop. Good quality. Everybody is really happy with how everything came together.”Gala-blooms-Thome-Orchards

Smith said Michigan’s “weather has been ideal, thank goodness. We’ve had a lot of warm weather this summer, which improves size.” At the same time, “cool nights improve the sugar content to bring tasty apples.”

Harvest will gear up in the third week of August. Gala will be among the first “classic” Michigan apple varieties to be harvested.

Smith noted that Michigan’s – and the nation’s - official apple volume estimate won’t be announced until Aug. 23-24 at the U.S. Apple meeting in Chicago.

Don Armock, president of Riveridge Produce Marketing Inc., said the 2018-19 Michigan apple season should bring “a larger crop than normal. My best guess at this point is 27-28 million bushels, but we have had very favorable weather for sizing of fruit with king bloom set, plus warm days following bloom. This enhances cell division and sets up the potential for increased sizing.”

Armock said Michigan orchards have seen “a warm summer thus far and in some producing regions very adequate rainfall. At this point, fruit size is somewhat larger than normal. With continued favorable weather, we could see a 10 to 20 percent increase in crop volume. The timing is very similar to last season, but the 2018 crop is at least 25 to 30 percent larger than last year’s frost-shortened crop.”

Armock said in “most seasons we are producing ever-increasing volumes of Gala, Fuji and Honeycrisp, and this year will be no exception. These have become the new mainstream varieties for us and the old standards are waning in volume as they are replaced with consumer-desired varieties and more productive systems. The other evolving trend is that as new strains or types become available in popular varieties the older trees are being replaced with improved, earlier harvesting, better coloring or eating strains.

Chris Sandwick, vice president of sales and marketing for BelleHarvest, noted, “We will have a very, very nice crop this year. We’ve had really ideal growing conditions this spring and summer. But, they’re not in the barn yet,” he said. “But so far it’s a big and well-finished crop. It’s been wonderful.”

Tom Labbe of Jack Brown Produce Inc. said the 2018 Michigan apple crop “is going as planned. It’s looking really good. I’m not sure it’s a huge crop, like we thought, but it’s a good crop, for sure. We will start a little later than last year.”

Labbe said the earliest varieties will start in late August, with Galas and McIntosh coming on about a week late in mid-September.

Labbe expects Michigan apple shippers “to have a really aggressive start to the year. There are going to be some very good things coming out of Michigan!”

Ken Korson, apple category manager for North Bay Produce Inc. in Traverse City, MI, said of this Michigan crop: “The apples are clean. Knock on wood, there has been no hail in the growing areas,” he said in early August. “We’ve had kind of a dry summer. So the crop is really clean. Two weeks ago we worried but then we had two or three inches of rain in the Ridge area. That saved us a little bit.”

Korson said that, generally speaking, the 2018 Michigan apple size profile involves “pretty much everything. The Washington (size profile) is looking big everywhere.”

North Bay was to begin shipping its early varieties, including Early Golds, in mid-August. The early markets involve local and Chicago wholesalers and some retailers.

Then, North Bay has Paulareds and Ginger Golds about Aug. 17. “Four days later we’ll have Zestar, which is a new early variety with increasing production in Michigan. A couple of growers produce it to have cash early in the season. It is a sweet-tart apple that is medium-hard and pretty juicy. It has a two- to three-week window. We try to have it gone in two weeks.

“Then we have Gala and Honeycrisp,” Korson continued. “Different varieties start reaching maturity every couple of days as September rolls around, including McIntosh, then Cortlands.”