Tonawanda News

April 28, 2013

New York apple growers expect better crops this year

By Danielle Haynes
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — This past fall it was a little harder for Western New Yorkers — and indeed, much of the United States — to get in their prescribed apple a day. 

An early heat wave last March, coupled with a late frost in April killed off many of the early-blooming buds in New York orchards, and after that, there wasn’t much coming back. 

Jim Allen, the president of the New York Apple Association, said unlike last year, this state’s apple crop this year is right on schedule and he anticipates a normal year of production.

This year’s weather is following more typical patterns, unlike last year’s very early spring, he said. 

In order for an apple tree to remain healthy and produce fruit, temperatures must consistently warm up throughout the spring. The buds will bloom once it gets warm enough, but the danger is then dropping back down to freezing temperatures.

The blooms are going to “wake up when the weather wakes them up and at that point we have no control over them,” Allen said.

Glenn Sanger, owner of Sanger Farms in Youngstown, called his apple season last year “a disaster.”

“We had a slight apple crop this year,” he said, adding that they had to cancel you-pick and other activities. 

“We were even closed this winter the first time in 35 years. We usually have 300 to 400 20-bushel tubs (of apples) and last year we had nine 20-bushel tubs.”

The only apples that survived among his eight to 10 varieties were some gala apples, which were “no good for storing,” he said.

Allen called last year’s crop the worst the state has seen since 1945.

“Close to 60 percent of our crop was lost,” he said. “The biggest loss came in the fresh market apples that you see in grocery stores and farmer markets.”

The apples that did survive the late frost weren’t good enough for the fresh market, so they were diverted to the processing market to make juice and applesauce, which isn’t as lucrative for farmers, Allen said.

But this year the weather has cooperated and things are right back on track.

“It’s been cold right up through now,” Sanger said. “Now when they come up in blossom, they’ll keep on growing. It looks good right now.”

Allen cautiously warned the apple growing season is a long one and while he can’t predict what might happen in later months, he said he’s very optimistic.

“It’s a long time between now and fall harvest and anything can happen but at least we’re starting out in a very strong positon,” Allen added. “They’re coming back with strong bug development and we anticipate a gorgeous blossom and, God willing, we’ll have a good New York state apple crop this year. “

And New Yorkers should have an easier time keeping that doctor away this year.

“There’s a lot of people who eat apples and they probably don’t eat (any other fruits) so they probably missed them” last year, Sanger said.

“So far this season is textbook perfect,” Allen added.

Contact features editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116.