Final Observations—Fruit Maturity Project
The grower-supported apple maturity updates for 2016 focused on new apple varieties grown at the University of Maryland orchard in Keedysville, to provide pertinent information ahead of their picking dates for orchards further north. The information from Keedysville was combined with observations made in commercial orchards and distributed through the Penn State Extension network as a collaboration of the Mid-Atlantic Fruit Consortium.
While the heat had less effect on initial harvest dates in 2016, fruits tree- ripened quite rapidly. This was particularly problematic with early varieties such as Honeycrisp and Gala. Cool, wet weather following bloom reduced fruit finish, with Honeycrisp and Fuji especially prone to russeting. In Fuji, many fully-exposed fruit were also sunburned.
In retrospect, a number of points stand out from the 2016 season:
Premier Honeycrisp fruit had good size, color, and eating quality, despite maturing more than two weeks ahead of Honeycrisp. While this was a hot dry year which would be expected to induce bitter pit, in our storage trials with fruit from two orchards, we still have not seen much damage to stored Honeycrisp fruit. This is likely related to calcium management programs in the orchards sampled, but we have not confirmed this with the growers.
Brookfield Gala fruit ripened extremely quickly due to the summer heat. Fruit went from immature to overripe in 7 to 10 days. Crimson Crisp apples were quite firm, although they were not as crisp as Honeycrisp. Despite ripening in early to mid-September, many fruit had water core. Their red color, firmness and high soluble solids – possibly from the water core – made them well-suited for direct-marketing. Daybreak Fuji (Rankin cv) was well received by consumers, despite the heat. It was tree-ripe at Keedsyville, MD on September 20th. Fuji fruit showed a lot of peel damage, likely caused by cool, wet post-bloom weather. In addition, sunburn was also problematic in Fuji. Aztec Fuji and Nagafu Fuji were poorly colored, but edible, in early October.
Since the fruit were not prone to pre-harvest drop they continued to tree-ripen during the following four weeks.
Cripps Pink apples were storage-mature in late October and fully-colored when harvested during the first week of November. Cripps Pink harvest was a few days earlier than in previous years, but not as early as we had initially predicted.
More details on maturity, including firmness, fruit size, soluble solids and red color, are posted at Apple Maturity Assessments. This project is supported by the State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania Research Committee and is a cooperative effort of University of Maryland Extension and Penn State Extension.
2016 Harvest Completed Cultivars
Christopher S. Walsh
Professor of Pomology, University of Maryland