Michigan apple harvest reports – August 29, 2012

Predicted apple harvest dates are on track.

Predicted apple harvest dates are published by MSU Extension educators each year and the dates for 2012 are about three weeks ahead of normal averages. As we begin to harvest the earliest cultivars, we get a chance to compare actual harvest dates to predicted dates. It appears that our predicted harvest dates for 2012 are on target with what is actually happening in the orchards. The article Predicted 2012 apple harvest dates has a table that is calculated for the Grand Rapids, Mich., area and you can adjust the dates for your location based on distance from mid-Michigan.

See the MSU apple website at apples.msu.edu and the MSU Extension News for Fruit website for more information, including reports from other regions, past season reports and much more information about apple maturity and apples in general.

Below are the apple maturity and harvest statuses by region.

Southwest MichiganSouthwest Michigan - Bill Shane, Michigan State University Extension

Gala harvest is complete for most growers in southwest Michigan and McIntosh varieties are nearly done. Honeycrisp is being spot-picked now and usually will take two or three picks. There is quite a bit of tree-to-tree variability for this variety. The skin of some of the more mature Honeycrisp fruit is starting to feel waxy and greasy. Size of Honeycrisp is generally good with very good flavor. The fruit disorder lenticel spot is common this year and bitter rot, usually rare in Michigan, is showing up because of the hot mid-season. See Lenticel infections and bitter rot of apples for more information.

Varieties that are on the horizon for testing and potential harvesting in the lower southwest Michigan region are Jonagold, Golden Delicious and Jonathan.

Southeast MichiganSoutheast Michigan - Bob Tritten, Michigan State University Extension

Apple harvest is moving along quickly in the region due to the early start to the season. There are so few apples in the region that the information for this report is hard to gather. Gala and McIntosh have been harvested and growers are starting to do a very light first picking of Honeycrisp. Gala were ready to harvest 16 days ahead of normal and McIntosh were 12 days ahead of normal. Honeycrisp seem to have a wider range of maturity than any other year that I have seen. Growers are looking “down the road” at the maturity of Empire, Jonathan and Jonagold, and even a few are eyeballing Golden Delicious.

Where there is a crop, harvest is very slow because the crop is so light and spread out, so this makes harvest much more expensive than most years. There are many farms where apple quality is a problem, mostly due to freeze damage, resulting in many small, misshapen fruit. Fruit size has stalled at many farms due to drought stress.

West Central MichiganWest Central Michigan - Phil Schwallier and Amy Irish-Brown, Michigan State University Extension

Apple maturity is all over the board. There is a considerable variation in maturity from block-to-block, tree-to-tree and even limb-to-limb. Some fruits are mature and others are quite immature, especially where crop load is variable. In general, growers are reporting smaller fruits than expected with such a light crop. Fruits are marred up with frost marks and lenticel damage. Bitter pit is present in some areas, but less than expected so far. Brix levels are very much above normal.

Growers are picking McIntosh, Galas, Honeycrisp and Golden Supreme. Gala fruit size is small to medium, especially when fruits have few to no seeds and are born from 1-year-old wood. Gala are getting a greasy feel most likely due to the hot and dry summer weather. These fruit can hang longer on trees to pick up more size and yield. Most growers are not planning any CA storage of these fruit and, thus, there is not the rush to get the fruit off the tree.

McIntosh, Gala and Honeycrisp are all ready for harvest, but with quite a mix of maturity, so spot-picking would be best. Fruit drop is starting to occur. Be ready to apply NAA as a stop drop with or without ReTain or start harvest. It appears predicted harvest dates are quite good guidelines. We expected the mixed maturity, small fruit size, internal and external problems with the fruit, considering the frost, heat and drought this year.

Northwest MichiganNorthwest Michigan - Nikki Rothwell, Michigan State University Extension

Although the apple crop is smaller in northwest Michigan than in typical years, growers are pleased with fruit quality at this point. Growers with irrigation systems are running them often to help size the fruit and to reduce the stress on the trees from the extremely dry conditions. Overall, fruit size for all varieties is smaller this season. Gingergold harvest is underway. Some growers are spot-picking Galas, but our limited maturity sampling shows that starch indexes are still quite low and firmness is still high; color on Galas has improved in the last week.

McIntosh are still a week and a half off before harvest can be expected, and again, the color on this variety has improved in the past week. Recent cool nights will improve color in all varieties. Honeycrisp are sizing better than other varieties, and brix levels have risen in the past week; color on this variety is still minimal. Bitterpit in Honeycrisp is less than anticipated with the lighter crop.

Apple post-harvest laboratory comments - Randy Beaudry, MSU Department of Horticulture

Based on samples sent to the lab from the Grand Rapids, Mich., area, Gala ethylene levels are normal and typical. McIntosh ethylene levels are considerably higher this week than last week. Honeycrisp ethylene and starch clearing are right on target with the fact that harvest is just beginning.

Go to the 2012 MSU apple maturity program and reports.

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