Apple picking season affected by drought

Published: Aug. 25, 2023 at 10:53 PM CDT
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MARION, Iowa (KCRG) - The drought that is affecting much of Eastern Iowa is taking its toll on orchard owners.

Chris Gensicke owns Allen’s Orchard in Marion. He says the drought and excessive heat had made this one of his strangest years since purchasing the business in 2010. Gensicke said the derecho killed about half of his tree canopy so many of the trees he replanted are still new, and they’re struggling from excessive heat and a lack of water.

“This year the trees are quite stressed, and I’m quite stressed,” he said. “We have moved around thousands of gallons a week,”

Gensicke has an irrigation system that waters most of the new trees he replanted following the derecho, but he said even that hasn’t been enough. He said the trees haven’t grown as fast, the fruit might not be as big, and he said flavor may be stronger than we’re used to.

“The main thing we’ve seen with the weather and the drought is the relentless sun and the heat,” said Gensicke. “We hit 101 degrees on one of our weather stations on Wednesday. Some of them are showing sun scolding. I like to call them little apple sauce bags. They don’t keep well.”

The trees have seen so much stress, he said people who want to pick apples this year might want to go apple picking earlier this year.

“I always tell people that apples are a summer thing that happens in the fall,” he said. “If you think you’re going to be putting on your flannel shirts this year and your long-sleeved coats and having your mittens and your hats on and drinking warm cider while picking apples, the apples will be gone by then this year.”

Gensicke said if we don’t get some rain soon, it could start to affect next year’s apple crop.