Apples littlest in living memory

By Patrick O'Sullivan

Hawke's Bay's 2012 apple harvest has the smallest fruit in living memory, says Agfirst consultant John Wilton.

He said among the reasons for the smaller apples were poor pollination, a cool spring, quick colour development, ineffective thinning and a conscious decision to grow smaller fruit.

Poor pollination had showed up mainly in the Royal Gala types of apples.

"Some varieties flowered late which meant they didn't have other varieties around them to cross-pollinate," he said. "Some growers pulled out some uneconomic varieties, forgetting about the contribution they make to pollination - the bees had no pollen with which to transfer."

A cooler-than-normal spring held back growth but then fruit had ripened quickly, lessening growing time.

"Normally, they have to wait around for colour. They put on about 10 grams a week, so if you harvest a bit early that's 10 grams you miss out on."

Chemical thinning had been less effective than usual.

"I think it may have been too cold," he said.

Hand thinning also was below par.

"One would think there was less hand thinning done, due to an affliction out there known as banker's blight."

Many growers were aiming for smaller fruit, which was the preferance in Asian markets, but some growers had "overcooked it a bit".

He said: "You can panic and go the other way."

New Zealand exports are increasingly swinging towards Asia. This season just under 33 per cent of apple exports went there compared with 28 per cent to continental Europe. Last season, Asia took 27 per cent and Europe 35 per cent.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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