Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Bumper crop of apples predicted

The icy winter, late spring and blistering summer have created perfect conditions for this year's apple crops
The icy winter, late spring and blistering summer have created perfect conditions for this year's apple crops

The weather over the past year has created the ideal conditions for a tasty, bumper apple crop, experts have said.

Last year's wet autumn, followed by the icy spring and a hot summer have been perfect for apple growing, and this year's crop is set to be sweeter and rosier than apples seen in recent harvest, the Royal Horticultural Society said.

The cool, wet spring and summer last year meant apple orchards saw a bad harvest, which could have contributed to the good crop this year as trees often compensate for a poor season by growing extra fruit the following year.

While the wet autumn in 2012 was bad for last year's harvest, it was good news for this year, because it ruled out the chance of drought which can lead to small, poor tasting fruits.

This year's weather has also been very good for apple trees, with the prolonged cold snap early on helping them fruit, and the sunny summer enabling them to grow and develop a good flavour, RHS experts said.

Jim Arbury, RHS fruit specialist at the society's Wisley garden in Surrey, said: "Apples evolved in central Asia to suit a continental climate of hot summers and very cold winters and need to be exposed to a certain amount of cold weather each winter of they won't flower or fruit properly."

He said most apple varieties need a minimum of 1,000 hours below 7C, and those kind of chilly conditions remained well into April, giving the trees enough "chill time" for the fruit to set properly.

"The long extended period of cold also stopped the trees from flowering at their usual time. By the time they did flower, there were more daylight hours and the weather was warmer that it would be if they had flowered as usual."

This meant a lower risk of damage by frost and more insects around to pollinate the blossom.

And when summer finally arrived, the warm, sunny conditions boosted ripening of apples.

Mr Arbury said: "Like all fruits, apples need sunshine if they are going to grow and develop a good flavour. In the spring crops were lagging up to a month behind but a sudden burst of sunshine in prime ripening season late June and July, has helped the apples gain some ground as well as helping them ripen up beautifully.

"This year's crop should have an excellent flavour."

The variety of temperature this year, some of it on a daily basis with cooler nights causing heavy dew before giving way to hot days, has also affected the apples, giving them a "nice rosy blush", he added.

The RHS predicted the home-grown harvest would start flooding into shops in the next few weeks, giving lovers of British varieties a real treat.

The horticultural organisation also said the four RHS gardens round the country would be celebrating all things apple with tastings, tips and cookery demonstrations at their taste of autumn festivals, taking place at Wisley on October 16-20 and the other gardens October 12-13.

ends

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