This week The English Apple Man took a walk in some apple orchards for the first time since before the Coronavirus lockdown.
I am very grateful to my Agronomist friends who have been sending me pictures and information over the last few weeks. I will still be drawing on their technical knowledge in future weeks, but it was nice to get in an orchard myself again!
Generally the feedback from my Agronomist friends is a positive one for this years' apple crop and I have been eager to get into orchards since the lockdown began. Now with lockdown easing, I was able to take my camera 'safely' into a few orchards in West Kent.
Below: My first visit: a 10 year old Braeburn orchard which is carrying a good crop, but sadly has experienced some hail damage.
Below: The fruit set on these Breaburn trees is good - we can see the fruitlets growing away and those which will drop naturally - the grower said this orchard has a propensity to thin naturally, so no thinner has been used
Below: Hail damaged Breaburn apples
The hail fell about two weeks ago in May and fortunately is of a level with sufficient fruit undamaged, that hand thinning will enable a reasonable crop to be salvaged after hail damaged fruit is removed.
Classically hail damages the best fruit (the most exposed fruit) leaving the shaded fruit undamaged.
In days gone by when trees were larger and more fruit hid beneath the branches/leaves, the undamaged fruit was starved of light, fortunately modern tree management (narrow tree profile) and varieties (naturally more highly coloured) have excellent light transmission and red colour should not be a problem by harvest time.
The great scourge of apple growers (globally) is Canker! It does not matter where you go and ask 'what is your biggest problem? Canker is nearly always the response. After the very wet winter and waterlogged soil, Canker is an inevitable consequence. The grower will 'go through this orchard' and cut away the wood with canker - always best done in dry conditions!
Below: left; a serious Canker lesion on a main branch and right; this tree has been devastated by Canker!
Below: This Cox orchard is circa 30 years old and 'on the list' for the bulldozer, but still carries a useful, if patchy crop
Below: left; a bunch of Cox in need of thinning and right; the same bunch thinned to two apples
Below: In the Cox orchard, Egremont Russet, a variety which is unfortunately losing favour in the Supermarkets.
My second visit was to an orchard with Gala, Cox and Stardance - all about 5 years old.
The grower had grafted many of his Stardance over to Gala this spring. The Stardance is a lovely apple with good flavour but (on this site) has been difficult to achieve sufficient red colour for commercial (Supermarket) sales. The problem is it becomes greasy before the red colour reaches acceptable levels. But it is well received in the farm shop due to it's excellent eating quality.
Stardance is easy to crop, visually attractive, high yielding and resistant to common forms of Scab (Vf scab resistance gene)
Below: These Stardance have been grafted over to Gala
Below: left; a Gala graft on the Stardance tree and right; A row of Stardance which the grower is keeping for his farm shop
Bellow: left; Gala growing on Bibaum trees (twin leader) and right; Cox and Gala rows on single leader trees
Below: left; a very heavy fruit set on the young Gala and right; a good set on the young Cox
Finishing this week with a comment on current affairs: Coronavirus continues: fortunately the infection rate is falling but death rates are still unacceptably high. The plethora of data can be confusing, we are very self critical of our Nation's efforts to combat this terrible virus, but it was only a few weeks ago Sweden was being held up as an example of a much more 'measured' approach. Hindsight is a wonderful assistant when criticising past actions, but this chart makes for an interesting view (in hindsight)
Below: left; COVID -19 per 100.000 and right; the great Orator 'Donald Chump'
That is all for this week
Take care & stay safe
The English Apple Man