This fall, Professor Susan Brown of Cornell University encourages consumers to buy apples sourced from local orchards since they will be bigger and brighter due to this season’s growing conditions.
Brown, an apple breeder and professor of horticulture with Cornell University, says that the early wet season caused the apples to be bigger this year, but it also made early disease control difficult. More recently, the region has seen cold nights which help with the color and quality.
“Some varieties are ripening a week or two later than usual this year,” said Brown, “so check you local grower’s website or ask your produce manager when certain varieties might be available.”
With the early wet season, fungal diseases can be common, but were contained with heavy spraying. Professor Kerik Cox specializes in fungal and bacterial diseases of apples, would have expected apple scab or Marssonina leaf spot. Luckily, apple scab only affects how the apples look, not the taste, and Marssonina leaf spot doesn’t affect the fruit. Growers could actually grow organic fruit more sustainably if they feel that consumers could put up with a little more apple scab. “Many of the popular varieties that consumers like aren’t highly susceptible to apple scab and other leaf spots. Gala apples are fairly susceptible to apple scab, but Honeycrisp is resistant to apple scab,” said Cox.
Craig Wager, an apple grower and owner of the Wager’s Cider Mill, believes that due to an eight degree frost last November, the buds may have been negatively affected. Wager does not see the growth that Brown predicted, but he does see that some varieties are behind, although his farm seems ahead.
Some of Wager’s varieties like Autumn and Honey Crisps are larger, and he attributes his progress to his maintenance. He fertilizes his trees once a year, and he trims the leaves back, which allow for the fruit to grow larger, and ripen faster.
Wager estimates that they grow around 18,000 bushels of apples. “Around 100% of them go to the Cider Mill,” said Wager. He also sells apples at a market in New York City, as well as 22 schools in the southern tier.