Drought Shrinks Apple Pickings

Consumers may find that while the apple pickings in Ohio may be slimmer this year, the apple harvest crop's overall quality will be more flavorful.

Published on: Oct 19, 2012

As a result of the extreme weather that the Buckeye state has experienced this year, including spring frosts, summer drought, extreme heat, high winds and hailstorms, the state's apple harvest crop this year is expected to be much smaller than in a typical year, said Diane Miller, an OSU Extension fruit-tree specialist. 

That means that while Ohio apples are available at markets and grocery stores, consumer will likely find a higher price tag on the shelves, she says. 

"Apple crops in Indiana, Michigan and northern Ohio are smaller this year," Miller says. "No one has a really heavy crop." 

Drought Shrinks Apple Pickings
Drought Shrinks Apple Pickings

Apple harvest production in Ohio is expected to be down some 46% this year, says Bill Dodd, president of the Ohio Fruit Growers Marketing Association. And growers in other states have also seen apple crop declines, he said. 

"In Ohio, which is the ninth-largest apple producer nationwide, we have apple growers who have experienced everything from a total crop loss to those who are experiencing crops at 90 percent or better, to everything in between," Dodd says. "Things vary by location, individual farms and apple variety." 

Growers in many regions were hit especially hard by the combination of an early spring and a late freeze that wiped out much of the crop. Michigan, which averages some 25 million bushels in apples each year, is expected to only produce 2 million bushels this year, Dodd said. Likewise, New York, which is also a large apple-producing state with an average of 30 million bushels, is expected to produce 14 million bushels this year, he said. 

The declines will make this the lowest apple-producing season since 1988, Dodd says. 

"As a result of the shortages around the country, apple prices have increased some 20 to 25%," he says. "Consumers should check with local orchards to make sure they have apples this year. 

"There will be apples this year but the supply may be spotty." 

But those apples that have gone to harvest are expected to be more flavorful, thanks to hot temperatures in August, which helped sweeten the fruit, Miller says. Because apple trees are pretty drought-resistant, apples tend to do well in hot weather, she says. 

"We were on the edge of not having enough moisture, but there was enough," Miller says. "While the quantity of the harvest is smaller, the quality of the fruit this year is outstanding because of the amount of sunshine we had this summer. 

"The apples that survived should be sweeter and more flavorful. So people who want to get their apples from a farmers market or u-pick should do it soon. In a couple of weeks, the u-pick apples will be done."