Iowa’s Apple Crop Rebounds

By George C. Ford, The Gazette

Iowa’s apple production rose sharply in 2013 from a dramatic low in 2012, and an Eastern Iowa grower says the 2014 crop looks just as plentiful.

Iowa orchards produced 7.3 million pounds of apples last year, up from 700,000 pounds in 2012. Average yield per acre jumped from 700 pounds in 2012 to 7,680 pounds in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Iowa’s apple growers harvested 950 acres in 2013, 50 acres less than the previous year.

Paul Rasch, owner of Wilson’s Orchard in Iowa City, said the 2012 was light and affected by a freeze.

“Home orchards typically will have a light crop one year and a heavy crop the following year,” Rasch said. “Apples have five flowers per fruit bud. The first one that comes out is the king bloom, which we want because it makes the big apples.

“When we have a big crop like we did last year, we have to thin out all the other blooms. Having done that, we are looking at an even better crop this year.”

Rasch said the apple bloom came late this year and was followed by two days of “really nice bloom weather.”

“The bees could fly, there wasn’t much wind and the temperature was about 75 degrees,” he said. “We were able to set all of our king blooms. Then it turned cold and windy, and we didn’t set another apple bloom for about six or seven days.

“The bees weren’t flying and there wasn’t a lot of pollination.”

Rasch said his 2014 crop is looking really good, especially after two hailstorms missed his orchard.

“Right now, it’s looking like an excellent crop,” he said. “We’re feeling really blessed, although weather can still change everything.”

Apple growers in state’s surrounding Iowa reported mixed results in 2013. Illinois orchards produced 13 million pounds of apples, down from 32 million pounds in 2012, but Wisconsin growers produced 41.7 million pounds of applies in 2013, up from 23.6 million pounds in 2012.

Michigan, traditionally a top apple-producing state, experienced a jump from 115 million pounds in 2012 to 1.3 billion pounds last year.

l Comments: (319) 398-8366; george.ford@sourcemedia.net

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