ENGLISH APPLE producers are hoping for a last minute warm weather boost to a disappointing year for native apple varieties.
Over the next couple of months around 200,000 tonnes of apples will be picked, up 22% on last year but down 12% on 2011, according to English Apples & Pears (EAP), the industry’s promotional body.
This is despite greater investment in crop planting, and is being attributed to a cold and windy weather which affected flowering and pollination as well as the result of a chilly early summer.
“Farmers have been planting more orchards and we should be benefiting from that so it’s slightly disappointing that it looks like the crop will be below 2011,” said Adrian Barlow of EAP.
Thousands of hectares of land have been devoted to apple orchards in the past few years – up 10% between 2009 and 2012 – in a bid to supply growing demand for British fruit.
It is anticipated that this number will rise by another 7% over the next couple of years, as new varieties and intensive growing techniques make apple production more profitable.
However, new orchards mainly consist of varieties developed overseas which yield for a longer period, making them popular with supermarkets. This has resulted in traditional English varieties such as Cox being ‘squeezed out’.
The amount of land devoted to Cox is down by 5% since 2009 with russets down 23.5%. Meanwhile, newer popular varieties such as Gala and Braeburn are up 49.5% and 67% respectively.
Each hectare of new orchard can potentially produce at least twice as big a crop of apples as the old-fashioned kind of orchard, partly because trees are planted closer to each other using techniques such as “fruit walls”.
These 3-metre high hedges of apples allow some processes, such as thinning the fruit, to be done mechanically, thus reducing high labour costs.