SPARTA, Mich. — After a historically short crop in 2012, Michigan growers are gearing up for a potentially historically large crop this season, but it’s not just a kinder and gentler Mother Nature who deserves the credit.

This year won’t likely be an aberration. Barring more catastrophic weather like growers endured last season, the Michigan apple industry should enjoy a steady increase in production over the next few years.

“A lot of new trees have been planted in the past six to eight years,” said Pat Chase, salesman for Jack Brown Produce Inc.

Those trees are really starting to produce, Chase and other growers and packers said.

One new block producing Honeycrisps and other varieties, for example, are expected to yield about 50% more fruit this season compared to 2011, Chase said.

More for fresh

In addition to the new plantings, more of that new acreage is being scheduled for the fresh market, said John Schaefer, Jack Brown’s president.

More plantings of varieties consumers want is helping to drive growth in the Michigan industry, said Chris Sandwick, vice president of sales and marketing for Belding-based BelleHarvest Sales Inc.

“Things are cyclical, but we’re certainly up now,” he said.

“There’s been so much investment the last several years, so many new trees in the ground,” said Diane Smith, executive director of the Lansing-based Michigan Apple Committee.

Acreage has stayed roughly the same, though, Smith said. In fact, an acreage survey in 2012 found that apple acreage was actually down by a few hundred acres.

Density, however, more than made up for it.

“There’s a huge jump in the number of trees,” she said.

That new supply is a better match for what the market is demanding, said Tom Curtis, president of Belding-based All Fresh GPS LLC.

“We’re planting the right varieties, the varieties consumers are looking for.”