Apples falling – abundant harvest
Barton County Extension Agent
After the late spring freeze in 2007, there wasn’t much fruit to be harvested from most backyard fruit trees. Ah, but as is typical, after a poor crop, then with perfect weather conditions in 2008, we have many truck loads of fruit of nearly all species and the same is true with nut trees such as pecans.
Apple harvest is now upon us and some are hitting the ground. Before I came here, I spent 6 years as an agent in Doniphan County and that was apple country. I learned a few things from the professionals and some of you have probably heard of Wathena apples. I know Michelle Beran has.
As Isaac Newton observed, apples will fall from the tree. When the apple fruit reaches maturity, a layer of cells, called an abscission layer, forms where the apple stem attaches to the main branch of the tree. When the apple reaches maturity, this layer of cells becomes loose, causing the apple to disconnect from the tree.
This can happen even before we get our first hard freeze, which we haven’t had yet, but are due any day now, in terms of averages.
In some commercial orchards, applications of a growth-regulating substance are applied to hold the apples on the tree longer so that they can be harvested from the tree rather than the ground. When the apple falls, there is a danger of bruising in some varieties and the possibility of apples coming in contact with the soil, which may result in muddy fruit (that need to be washed) or bacterial contamination.
Some varieties of apples are more prone to dropping than others. For long-term storage, inspect ground-drop apples closely to make sure that no bruising has occurred. In addition, make sure the apples are clean before putting them into storage.
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From June through September, John Etchart spends most of the day driving a tractor through hayfields below the mountains near Meeker in northwestern Colorado.