Frost put a severe dent in last year’s apple crop in the East, limiting New York to 17.1 million bushels. But growers in the Empire State expect their orchards to bounce back in a big way this season.
Julia Stewart, spokeswoman for the Fishers-based New York Apple Association Inc., expects 29 million bushels, which would be in line with the state’s five-year average. However, she said that number could surge to more than 30 million because of ideal weather conditions and new plantings.
She said a little more than half of New York’s apple crop typically goes to fresh market, but the percentage could be higher this season.
“It’s such a nice crop, and we had a strong fresh market last year, so we expect a little bit more than usual to stay in fresh market. We got rain when we needed it and sun when we needed it. We’re expecting a beautiful crop with good fruit size and high sugars,” she said.
Stewart said New York has 25% more trees than it did a few years ago, and some of those new plantings are starting to come into production.
“What you’ll see is more of what consumers are asking for,” she said. “In New York, that’s Honeycrisp, gala, empire and macintosh.”
Tim Mansfield, director of sales and marketing for Sun Orchard Fruit Co., Burt, N.Y., said trees often bounce back with a large crop after a down year, and that’s what’s happening this season.
“Quality looks really good,” he said. “The trees had stored up a lot of energy, and we had a very heavy set. In the spring, we were concerned about size, but we’ve had good weather, and we’re going to have good size fruit.”
Mansfield said Sun Orchard started its harvest the week of Aug. 19 with paula reds, followed by ginger golds.
Harvest got underway in early August with ginger gold in Pennsylvania, where the state is expecting a crop of about 11 million bushels, said Julie Bancroft, executive director of the Harrisburg-based Pennsylvania Apple Marketing Board.
“We will have promotional levels of popular varieties like gala and Honeycrisp by mid-September,” Bancroft said. “Pennsylvania is expecting a very nice crop.”
Roughly 40% of Pennsylvania’s crop goes to the fresh market, said John Rice, vice president of Rice Fruit Co., Gardners, Pa.
Rice said Rice Fruit started harvesting ginger golds the week of Aug. 11. Galas followed in late August, and Honeycrisp and red delicious were expected by mid-September.
“We’ll be in full swing by Labor Day,” Rice said.
Rice said Aug. 15 that growing conditions had been favorable with temperatures topping out in the 70s during the day and falling into the 40s at night.
“That helps with extra sugar and color,” he said. “It’s exactly what we need.”
Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc., Greencastle, Pa., markets apples from Pennsylvania and Virginia. Apple commodity manager Lisa Fetterhoff said Keystone has increased size and good yields on early varieties and expects both trends to continue throughout the season.
“Promotional volume is increasing daily,” she said. “Retailers should promote Eastern apples with confidence.”
Like New York and Pennsylvania, growing conditions in Virginia have been excellent.
“It’s 75-80 degrees during the day and in the mid-50s at night,” said Jamie Williams, president of Turkey Knob Apples Inc., Timberville, Va.
“It’s perfect weather for coloring the red varietals. We’re going to have at least an average-size crop.”