The hot weather has accelerated the start of this year's apple harvest and brought some associated challenges.
LEFT: Discovery picked this week in Herefordshire
From my Agronomist Friend in the West Midlands...
"I hope you are keeping well and that you have found a shady spot. Unusually, we have exceeded the south east for temperatures this summer! "
Below: left & right; Library picture; Discovery and Discovery picking
Below: A typical Supermarket 6 pack
Discovery picking for supermarkets has started in the West Midlands, but they are not eating at their best yet. I think we are about 2 weeks from Red Windsor picking. All picking dates will be at least a week earlier than last year and most estimates are coming forward from where we thought they might be, due to the heat and drought.
Apart from the lighter soils with no irrigation, the trees have held up pretty well so far, but the last week has seen it get significantly drier. There are concerns about fruit size, especially in Gala which is carrying some heavy crops. Having already been hand thinned, there will be some growers who may go through again, to ensure that the get as many Gala apples as possible in that magic 63-68 mm size band.
This is the size the supermarkets want, to get 6 apples into a flow wrap pack, and at which size, the grower will make the best return without 'giving away' too much. This is because the pack has a count (6 apples) and a minimum weight. The grower gets paid per kilogram for that minimum weight.
Anything over that minimum weight, they don't get paid for. With pressure to keep prices down in supermarkets and large inflationary pressures on growers, not least in harvest labour which is seeing a minimum of 15% increase in cost this season, and probably more like 20% in reality, many growers are scratching their heads as to how they will make a living this year or in the future.
The English Apple Man Comments This season we are facing a serious situation! It is understandable Supermarkets want to keep the retail price down and consumers face higher prices for everything, especially energy in all it's formats, but if growers do not receive a better 'price home' there WILL be a lot of grubbing orchards this winter!!!!!!!!!!
Attached is a picture of some Jazz apples near Newent. Also attached are some pictures of dry orchards in East Anglia from a colleague.
Have a good weekend. I write as the temperatures are predicted 35 degrees for today, tomorrow and Sunday. Possible rain on Monday (but probably only a splash)
Below: Simon Bray's Bramley
From my friend Simon Bray up on the North Downs a picture of Bramley harvested yesterday and destined for immediate marketing.
Simon is a very respected grower who has maintained the successful family 'lineage' of top fruit growing which goes back many years.
The English Apple Man Comments.
This crazy spell of extreme weather continues and the lack of moisture is now really showing up: where it was green, it is now brown, the stress on plants is huge and the anticipated upward size curve on our fruit is now showing signs of slowing.
The drought of 1976 is still seared on my mind and the lack of fruit size was 'driven home' to me when we took our children to the New Forest for a week away (just as now, fears of inferno reminders were everywhere) and when we returned and (as grower's naturally do) I went straight to an orchard, and. "shock horror" the expectation of an increase in fruit size was dashed by a feeling "the fruit had shrunk" - the damage caused in 1976 was catastrophic, of course this year is matching/exceeding temperatures, but the difference for me was the lack of any rain on my apple farm in West Kent from late June 1975 until September 13th 1976, just as we started picking our Cox apples, AND it rained and rained all the way through apple harvest!!!!!!!!!
That is all for this week
The English Apple Man