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Idaho apple crop lighter than normal

Sean Ellis
A hard spring frost and unusually high summer temperatures will cause Idaho's 2013 commercial crop to be lighter than normal, but orchardists are reporting good quality.

CALDWELL, Idaho — Idaho’s 2013 apple crop is expected to be lighter than normal, but the state’s largest orchards are reporting good quality.

Orchardists say Idaho had ideal weather for apple production last year, but a hard spring frost and much higher summer temperatures will cause production to be down this year.

“For us, it will be a much lighter crop load, but the eating quality is going to be very nice,” said Kelly Henggeler, general manager and co-owner of Henggeler Packing Co. in Fruitland.

Henggeler said the spring frost had a significant impact on growth in areas where temperatures dropped the most.

“There’s just not a lot of fruit coming from those growing areas,” he said. “A few degrees made a big difference in whether you had a good crop or a very light crop.”

Trees in higher elevations or on hilltops fared better than those in lower elevations, he said.

“In higher elevations that had better air flow during the frost there seems to be a pretty good crop,” he said.

Henggeler said unusually high summer temperatures in the Treasure Valley impacted the sizing of Gala apples, which were picked in late August, but favorable fall conditions have resulted in “some nice finishing on Red Delicious and Fujis and some of the other later season varieties.”

Idaho’s apple harvest generally winds up by late October, though some late-season varieties such as Pink Lady could still be picked into November. Early season varieties such as Gala have already been picked and harvest of later season varieties such as Red Delicious and Fuji is winding down.

Idaho apple production totaled 70 million pounds in 2012, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. That was up from 60 million pounds in 2010 and 2011 and 45 million pounds in 2009.

Michael Williamson, owner of Williamson Orchards in Caldwell, said the spring frost also took a toll on his orchards’ apple production. Sun screen products applied to apples during the hottest part of summer kept sunburn issues to a minimum, he added.

“The frost that hit us in the spring lessened the crop a little bit, but the quality is very good,” he said. “The apples have very nice color and there is very little sunburn.”

Dan Symms of Symms Fruit Ranch in Caldwell said the frost is only part of the reason his company’s apple production will be off a little this year.

The real issue that affected crop size was mediocre pollinating weather during bloom period in late April, he said. The bees were available but there was a lot of wind and cool weather during that time.

“If it’s windy or cold, the bees don’t fly,” he said.



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