Apple growers forecast better harvest than 2020, but weather still a wild card | The Bottom Line

Washington’s apple growers are expecting to harvest more apples than they did last year, but the crop won’t be setting any records.

The Washington State Tree Fruit Association released its 2021 apple crop forecast Friday, with growers anticipating a crop of 125 million 40-pound apple boxes. It’s a 2.3% increase from 122-million boxes last year, but well below 2019’s 134.5 million boxes, according to a news release from the association.

“Growing seasons are never the same, and currently many (association) members are still evaluating the impact of this summer’s adverse and variable weather conditions,” association President Jon DeVaney was quoted as saying in the release. “Members have made their best attempt to incorporate these factors, but with harvest just beginning and several months of unknown weather ahead, further reductions in the size of the forecasted crop are possible.”

Yakima Valley experienced heat waves that sent growers scrambling to protect fruit. Hot weather can cause apple trees to go into “survival mode,” shunting nutrients away from the fruit, grower Ric Valicoff said in an earlier interview.

Last year, a Labor Day windstorm damaged fruit on the trees, resulting in a reduced harvest.

The record for apple harvests is 141.8 million boxes, set in 2014.

Growers expect Galas will again be the most numerous variety for the third year in a row, representing 21% of the harvest. That is followed by Red Delicious, 16%; Honeycrisp and Granny Smiths, 14%; and Fujis, 13%.

Cosmic Crisps are expected to represent 3% of the crop, a 114% increase from the previous year, the release said.

Organic apples are forecast at 12.3% of the total harvest, the release said, but the association said not all organically grown apples are packed as organic.

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