Honeycrisps and galas are among the consumer-friendly varieties that continue to see increased production in Michigan.

Sparta, Mich.-based Jack Brown Produce Inc. continues to see greater volumes of Honeycrisps, galas, fujis and jonagolds, thanks to new high-density plantings, said John Schaefer, the company’s president.

“New Honeycrisp plantings have been extensive the past several years, and galas have really become the mainline variety in Michigan, particularly on the Ridge.”

As for fujis, Jack Brown has had success with new strains of the variety.

And it’s hard to go wrong with increasing jonagold production in the Wolverine State.

“We do excellent jonagolds in Michigan.”

Hillsdale, Mich.-based Glei’s Inc. has a lot of new trees in the ground, but most of them haven’t stared producing yet, said Damon Glei, partner in the company.

The plantings are tilted toward a few consumer favorites, which should mean a shift in Glei’s varietal balance when they start bearing fruit.

“They’re mostly galas, fujis and Honeycrisps, with a few others mixed in,” Glei said.

As for this season, the company expects to produce fewer red and golden delicious. Most other varieties, Glei said, should account for about the same percentages as last year.

In the past 15 years, Michigan apple growers have been transitioning more and more acreage out of processing and into fresh-market plantings, said Don Armock, president of Sparta, Mich.-based Riveridge Produce Marketing Inc.

That’s also meant more of a focus on newer, consumer-friendly fresh-market varieties.

Riveridge will market more of industry darling Honeycrisps this season, and the company also expects an uptick in gala production.


Ideal conditions

It should be an especially good year for Honeycrisps, given the cooler-than-normal growing season. Armock said Honeycrisps like the heat less than other varieties.

In addition, newer and better versions of established varieties are likely to grow in popularity.

New fujis, for example, are not only of higher quality, but they also meet the need for greater volumes, Armock said.

Riveridge also continues to transition into newer strains of mcintoshes and jonagolds.

“We’ve had pretty good success with jonagolds,” he said. “Our cooler conditions suit that, and the new strains are higher-quality.”

Red and golden delicious acreage, which has fallen in various growing regions over the past several years, should be fairly stable for Riveridge this year, Armock said.

“We’re also planting better strains of reds,” he said.


Getting fresher

What’s on the decline for Riveridge are dual-purpose apples — apples that could go either fresh or processing markets — like jonathans, ida reds and romes.

The reason? Michigan continues its trend away from processing and toward fresh-market apples.

Belding, Mich.-based All Fresh GPS expects a similar mix of varieties this year, with an uptick in Honeycrips and possibly a slight decline in golden delicious and fuji production the only exceptions, said Bruce Heeren, a partner in the company.

“The acreage is very similar on Honeycrisps, but there’s more bearing surface on the younger trees. We should have bigger packouts.”

Barry Winkel, general manager of Greg Orchards & Produce Inc., Benton Harbor, Mich., said the varietal mix out of southwest Michigan should be similar this year.

“Reds are our largest, then goldens and galas, then it peels off pretty fast after that,” Winkel said.

Jonagolds and Honeycrips are among the leading varieties other than the “Big Three” shipped by Greg Orchards.

Red and golden acreage has been fairly stable, though goldens will likely be down this season because of a huge crop last season, said Diane Smith, executive director of the Lansing-based Michigan Apple Committee.

Newer high-density plantings in Michigan tend to lean towards Honeycrisps, galas, fujis and jonagolds, Smith said.

Michigan growers continue to grow jonathans, ida reds, romes and other older varieties, but their numbers are declining as the industry continues to transition out of processing apples.

“We’re definitely seeing that the trend is for fresh apples,” Smith said.