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The English Apple Man


15th May 2020 - A Virtual World, a sign of the times and Jack Frost has been about!

Who would have thought this time last year that we would be living in a virtual world?


Facetime, What's app, Zoom, etc.


Last year and every year before, going back many years, The British Independent Fruit Growers Association (BIFGA) have held a Spring Farm Walk. This year COVID -19 put a stop to that!


But BIFGA Chairman (and founder) John Breach suggested to his committee a 'Virtual Farm Walk'



Our "virtual tour" starts in Devon, proceeding in a clockwise direction via Worcestershire, Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, North Kent, East Kent, West Kent, and East Sussex. "Along the way" we will have presentations from the sponsors for this event, and conclude our tour with "virtual refreshments"!!


Click on BIFGA 2020 Virtual Spring Farm Visits


The BIFGA VIRTUAL FARM VISITS 2020 will be fully reported in future issues of The Fruit Grower Magazine


A bit different than normal, but a great idea from John Breach. To see last year's Spring Fam Walk - click on BIFGA SPRING FARM WALK 2019


Jack Frost has been about and levels of damage vary from region to region


Reporting from The West Midlands "Blossom time is always filled with optimism. The weeks after petal fall bring out the pessimism in growers! In this part of the world, the effects of the wet winter are now all too apparent. Some orchards have lost hundreds of trees to 'wet feet'. They either drowned or have been infected by Phytophthora root rot or possibly both.


On top of that we have had the most significant May frost for 25 or 30 years on Monday night/Tuesday morning (see the Weatherquest chart). Another is due tonight (Wednesday). Some cider varieties were still in bloom and a colleague has reported 'hundreds of acres' of cider apples frosted in Somerset".







The English Apple Man Comments.


From the chart (below) it is clear the most devastating frosts have occurred in the West of the Country: While Kent and Sussex have had lower levels of 'marginal frost' which has caused some obvious damage, but not as severe.


Pears are running heavily, but opinion is they needed to after an overset. Gala apples are not as heavily set as one would expect and chemical thinning may not be needed. Opinions vary!



Below: left; A cider tree in Evesham badly frosted and right; Marjories Seedling plums showing frost damage


Continuing from my Agronomist friend in West Midlands - "The first picture is a cider tree in the Vale of Evesham. I have reports of frost damage in Herefordshire as well.


Given the reduced demand for cider due to the pubs being shut, this may be good news for the cider makers but not good news for the growers affected.


Marjorie's Seedling plums should be green not black. Some look ok on the outside but the stone is brown.





I have also seen damage to dessert apple fruitlets (Cox shown in the picture of sliced through fruitlets). Last picture shows damage to vines.







Many pictures across social media of fires lit in vineyards this week.



Despite all this, growers are considering applying thinning chemicals to some varieties as they do look to have set well and they are concerned about availability of labour for hand thinning later in the summer. No sign of any rain either at the moment so we survive on what remains underneath from the winter. Never a dull moment fruit growing!


Below: left; Cox fruitlet black inside from frost damage and right; Marjories Seedling Plum with frost damaged brown centre



Below: Frost damaged grape vines



From Kent my Agronomist friend reports:


Crops look good. Most apples and some pears will need thinning.


Frost hail and wind have taken their toll on some orchards.


Fruit was growing rapidly, but the cold weather has slowed up development.


Some leaf scab evident.


Roots were compromised by the winter rains and trees are dead, suffering with neonectria or wet feet syndrome.


Moths are flying and aphids are present where not robustly treated.


Below: left; Conference Pear fruitlets showing severe cracking caused by earlier frost damage and right; Apple fruitlets growing away



Below: left; Leaf Scab evident and right; 'close up of same leaf scab'




As we end this week's EAM Journal, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic cannot be kept out of the mind for long. Some relief from Lockdown is on offer, but as 2 'golden oldies' my wife and I cannot afford to 'drop our guard'


Below: 'Trying to keep cheerful'


Until next week


Take care and stay safe


The English Apple Man