Michigan apple growers have always felt they produced a superior product.
Now a new report by a Michigan State University educator helps to back that claim up with a little science.
Being near Lake Michigan and its sister lakes has a lot to do with it, Amy Irish-Brown, district fruit educator with Michigan State University, said in the report.
“Being surrounded by the Great Lakes, Michigan is somewhat sheltered from severe weather coming across the Midwest,” Irish-Brown said.
“We still have our fair share of bad weather, but the lakes put us in a unique position of mostly cool nights, warm sunny days, and plenty of moisture — important factors in producing a healthy crop of apples.”
Research helps give the Michigan industry some ammunition when it comes to convincing buyers and others of the value of the state’s apples, said Diane Smith, executive director of the Lansing-based Michigan Apple Committee.
“It’s a scientific spins. It gives us some details, and shows why Michigan is unique for growing apples.”
It’s not just the “lake effect,” Smith said.
“Everything plays a part — the lake, the soil, the climate.”
Even cold winters play an important role, Irish-Brown said in the report.
The cold keeps trees dormant, which allows them to rest to preserve energy to grow future crops — and it protects them from potential damage.
Apple trees are resilient, Irish-Brown said, and can withstand very cold temperatures.
Temps can get as low as minus 25 before trees experience negative affects from the cold.
Irish-Brown’s report also emphasizes the importance of soil in growing high-quality Michigan apples.
Soil that’s not too heavy, and with just the right mix of nutrients, keeps trees healthy throughout their lifetimes.
“Apple trees are constantly working to distribute moisture and nutrients throughout,” Irish-Brown said.
“Branches, leaves and fruit all need energy for the current crop and the crops to come. That makes the soil in which the orchards are planted of utmost importance. Nutrients, pH levels and moisture levels are monitored to keep the trees in top shape.”
Topography is also important, Irish-Brown said. The landscape of a growing region plays a vital role in the health of the orchard.
Lower areas, for instance, can experience a drop in temperature, while higher areas are often more exposed to the elements.
With that in mind, Irish-Brown said, apple growers take great care in planning the layout of their orchards.