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The English Apple Man


3rd Apr 2020 - Another week, and what a week!

Each day brings an escalation of sad news as the COVID-19 virus takes an increasing hold on our Nation. Every fatal statistic is heartbreaking for families and those in close relationship with a loved one. As a couple of 'old fogies,' my wife and I stick to the rules of self-isolation, but the mental tension is one of the hardest emotions to keep under control!


To all EAM readers STAY SAFE


During the coronavirus crisis, many people will sadly be out of work. In last week's Journal, we identified BARDSLEY ENGLAND as an opportunity for employment in the West Kent area. In conversation with Ben Bardsley today, he is delighted with the response. At this moment in time, Bardsley has no vacancies. but as the season develops more vacancies should become available.


We also identified ANGUS GROWERS


One of the jobs opportunity websites is: BRITISH SUMMER FRUITS Once opened, click on the location map to view individual grower details.

The season continues irrespective of global events and The English Apple Man has asked Agronomist friends to keep me up to date with what is going on in our apple & pear orchards.


From late February until late summer the 'crop walking' skills of trained agronomists is paramount. Initially as buds develop and new leaf emerges it is vital sprays of crop protectant for Scab must be applied before scab infection occurs. Any new infections will not be visible to the naked eye, but the trained agronomist with his magnifying glass will be searching for the first signs of the disease. The agronomist will also be looking out for early signs of pests as well as disease. Monitoring means crop protectants can be applied when most effective and importantly NOT applied unnecessarily.


From an Agronomist friend in Kent


"Generally, the flower bud is Ok, older, non irrigated trees are suffering from lighter return bloom


Below: Frosted Plum Flower

Frost damage apparent, worse after the frost 31st March - 1st April.


Leaf quality is poor with discoloured hail and wind damaged leaves.


No scab and pressure is low. Recent dry weather has helped Some active overwintered mildew is around but too cold and dry to require robust treatment.


Weeds growing well. Perennial thistle and perennial nettles are early and actively growing.


EAM Comment: 'Weeds seem to grow in any conditions'


Headlands and some tree rows are in a terrible state after the winter rains but drier weather means that repairing can now be undertaken.




Below: left; muddy headlands and right; thistles and other weeds thrive



Aphids and caterpillars are starting to hatch and emerge with other pests like weevils being found in beating trays. The new weevil Forest bug is also being found.


The Scarlet Flat Mite has long been known as a minor pest of apples and occasionally pears in the UK. The females, in particular, are easily distinguished from other mites. Large numbers of mites feeding on foliage and developing fruits have a severe adverse effect on tree health and fruit quality.


Woolly Aphid has increasingly become a serious pest in apple trees with the reduction of available crop protectants.


Below: left; early signs of a woolly aphid colony and right; Scarlet Flat Mite



Pear sucker (Psylla pyricola) The nymphs appear in the spring on developing leaf and blossom trusses later in the summer they move to the leaves. Where the presence of honeydew and secondary sooty mould infection are characteristic of attack. Rosy Apple Aphid is a small sap-sucking insect that feeds on apple foliage and fruitlets during spring and early summer. Because it damages fruits even low numbers of aphids can cause significant damage.


Below: left; Pear sucker eggs and right; Rosy apple aphid





From my Agronomist friend in the West Midlands


"Update from the West Midlands is that we have another early season but the cold weather for the past week has slowed development down. I think we are on par with last year at the moment.


Below: left; frosted flowers (black centre) and right; signs of root damage on fruit bud development


We had several touches of frost of -2c or -3c in the past week and I have seen damage on early varieties such as Red Windsor and in the more advanced buds in Bramley. It would appear to be not as bad as some orchards in Kent and East Anglia.



Bud development is very uneven (which is probably a good thing in terms of damage to buds) but it is a legacy of a mild winter resulting in uneven bud break. I suspect flowering may be prolonged if not early.


Unfortunately, I saw my first sign of root damage from the wet winter (picture 1) with several trees collapsing just as they start to call upon the resources of their root system. The ground has dried up remarkably well given that I was splashing around in the water in many orchards just a fortnight ago.


Cider apples are just about at bud burst and growers are concerned about the effect on demand for apples given the current lockdown situation. Whilst take home (or should I say home delivered) cider sales are up, it cannot replace the consumption in the pubs. My hop growers are even more concerned.


Lots of concern about the labour situation but hopefully apple harvest is sufficiently far in the future for us to be out of the worst of the current situation. Not such a good situation for my soft fruit growers. For my ornamental grower customers, the situation at the moment is catastrophic unless the government can bail them out"


With the desperate need for PPE in the NHS and beyond, Agronomy company Agrii said it had donated all of the personal protective equipment (PPE) from its Dunkirk depot to the "incredible staff" at Addenbrooke's Hospital, in Cambridge.


The company tweeted: "A small gesture in the grand scheme of things but we hope it helps."


The English Apple Man repeats the job opportunities available through BRITISH SUMMER FRUITS


Below: In these challenging times, the springtime brings some cheer as trees and flowers emerge from winter hibernation, this beautiful Plum Blossom in the Vale of Evesham is a joy to see




Until next week


Take care


The English Apple Man