With the chance of a devastating freeze getting slimmer, apple growers in Michigan and New York are getting more optimistic about a big comeback from a disastrous 2012-13 season.
Freezes last year wiped out about 85% of Michigan’s crop and 52% of New York’s.
But as of May 14, things were looking up for 2013-14, said Don Armock, president of Sparta, Mich.-based Riveridge Produce Marketing Inc.
“We have the potential for a big crop,” Armock said. “Most of the buds on trees are fruit buds. Mother Nature did some thinning.”
In fact, Armock said, the challenge for growers this year could be thinning trees because of the large percentage of fruit buds.
Frost the night of May 12 and morning of May 13 caused some damage, Armock said, but Michigan still has the potential for a full crop.
Mid-May weather forecasts looked promising, he said, with little concern for devastating frosts in the second half of May.
“We should have very good pollination weather,” he said.
Riveridge expects to begin shipping early varieties about on time, around the third week of August, and galas the last week of August or first week of September, Armock said.
In New York, the National Weather Service issued a freeze warning for early morning May 14. Jim Allen, president of the Fishers-based New York Apple Association, said temperatures dropped to 31 degrees in some places but did no damage.
Trees were blooming right on cue in mid-May, Allen said.
Sunny, 70-degree weather in the first half of May proved perfect for blooms in the Hudson Valley and central and western New York, with the Lake Champlain area expected to follow soon.
“So far so good,” Allen said May 14. “Everything looks excellent at this point.”
The early May weather also was ideal for pollination, Allen said. New York apple bud counts also were high as of mid-March, and trees are in good shape following a relatively mild winter.
Another big Washington crop
Industry leader Washington may not break this season’s all-time record, but 2013-14 will likely come in second place, grower-shippers said.
About 129.6 million bushels of fresh-market apples are expected to ship from Washington this season, shattering the old record by about 20 million bushels. That will be hard to repeat, but good growing weather as of mid-May was promising another big crop.
“We’re seeing good blooms for next year,” said Howard Nager, vice president of marketing for Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, Wash.
John Onstad of Yakima-based Sage Fruit Co. said that while it was still too soon to tell, the 2013-14 crop could be in the 115-million- to 120-million-box range.
From what Onstad has heard about expected production around the U.S., marketers will have to hustle next season.
“There are going to be a lot of apples on the domestic market next year,” he said. “Washington shippers will have to rely more on export markets.”
California also is looking forward to good quality and potentially big volumes in 2013-14, said Andy Poteete, sales manager for Bakersfield, Calif.-based Bidart Bros. Marketing.
“The weather’s been ideal, we’ve had great blooms, we haven’t had any adverse weather and the crop looks clean,” he said. “It looks like it could be one of the better crops we’ve had.”
Bidart is on track to begin shipping galas in late July or early August and granny smiths in mid-August, right on time, Poteete said.