Fall is rapidly approaching, and apple harvest season is here. Helping to shed some light on 2019’s apple harvest, Susan Brown, professor of horticulture and world-renowned apple breeder; Kerik Cox, professor of plant pathology who specializes in fungal and bacterial diseases of apples; Arthur Agnello, entomology professor who focuses on tree fruit pests and pest management, weigh in on this year’s crop and growing season.
Professor Susan Brown, the apple breeder known for the SnapDragon and RubyFrost varieties, says 2019 is a great year for apples and it’s more important than ever to buy local apples to support growers in region.
“2019 should be an excellent year for apple quality. While we had a very wet early season, which made control of early diseases difficult, that was followed by sun and heat. These recent cold nights are perfect for enhancing both color and quality. Due to all of the early rainfall, apple size should be bigger this year.
“Some varieties are ripening a week or two later than usual this year, so check out your local grower’s website or ask your produce manager when certain varieties might be available.
“SnapDragon supplies doubled last year and will increase this year again; the same is true for increases in RubyFrost. The Honeycrisp fruit set was variable this year. Many varieties have an ‘on’ year, with many blossoms and fruit, followed by an ‘off’ year with lower yield. Cornell researchers are working to make cropping uniform across seasons.
“This is a time, across regions, that buying local, or close to local, is important as it supports growers throughout your region. Look at the apple sticker to be sure. With all of the many new varieties on the market, there has never been a better time to experiment with finding family favorites.”
Professor Kerik Cox, who specializes in fungal and bacterial diseases of apples, says even with intense periods of rainfall during the apple growing season, most diseases were fortunately kept in check this year.
“With the exceptional level of rain we had this season in late May and mid to late June, I would have expected a lot apple scab, a fungal disease that manifests itself as scabby lesions on the fruit and leaves. Fungal diseases like apple scab and Marsonnina leaf spot were kept in check with strategic fungicide use resulting from agile growers who responded to the risks in advance.
“Fortunately, Marsonnina leaf spot and shoot blights won’t affect the fruit. Apple scab does, but it’s only cosmetic and doesn’t affect taste. If consumers can accept an occasional spot or two, growers could greatly reduce fungicide inputs and more sustainably grow organic fruit.
“Many of the popular varieties that consumers like aren’t highly susceptible to apple scab and other leaf spots. Gala apples are fairly susceptible to apple scab, but Honeycrisp is resistant to apple scab. I’ve also been impressed with how little apple scab I’ve seen in plantings of SnapDragon apples.”
Professor Arthur Agnello, who specializes in tree fruit entomology, says similar to last year, insect pests have appeared not to be overly troublesome this season.
“Although New York apples certainly have a diversity of insect issues every season, this hasn’t been a particularly eventful year for apple insect pests.
“Similar to what we saw last season, this spring was ultimately very delayed, with see-sawing temperatures and miserable rainy stretches that didn't allow much insect activity but certainly taxed most disease control efforts.
“The first occurrence of apple maggot was also uniformly late around the state, and low numbers have been reported from most regions outside of the Hudson Valley, so it's not clear whether we're still due for a September flush of adults that should normally have occurred in early August. Populations of San Jose scale and woolly apple aphid infestations were noted in some orchards, but so far, it's unknown how much damage they will end up causing by harvest time.”