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Nova Scotia grower panel discusses Honeycrisp production

discusses Honeycrisp production


April 23, 2008
By Dan Wooley

Topics

Nova Scotia apple growers are converts to the Honeycrisp cause.
Andrew Bishop, one of four members
of a growers’ panel at the annual Nova Scotia Fruit Growers’
Association (NSFGA) annual meeting in the Annapolis Valley, admitted

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Taking part in the Honeycrisp growers panel at the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers’ Association annual meeting are: (left to right) Andrew Bishop, Blake Sarsfield, Dave Power and Craig Nichols.
Photo by Dan Wooley 

Nova Scotia apple growers are converts to the Honeycrisp cause.

Andrew Bishop, one of four members of a growers’ panel at the annual Nova Scotia Fruit Growers’ Association (NSFGA) annual meeting in the Annapolis Valley, admitted: “My customers taught me a valuable lesson. The Honeycrisp, despite its many faults, is a superior apple. It is here to stay and we have to manage it.”

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Shoppers focus on market size, said Bishop. When they have to pay $2.50 for a single Honeycrisp apple, he believes the market will not last. He feels growers will have to focus on producing a more uniform size for consumers.

One way to work toward uniformity is through thinning. When a grower has too many apples on his trees in August, Bishop believes he should thin to improve the crop’s quality at harvest by targeting the largest fruit in the cluster.

As an added quality-control step, he ensures the stems are cut from the harvested Honeycrisp to avoid post-harvest apple punctures, ensuring he has some control over quality once the apples are dumped into the bin.

Bishop first starts picking Honeycrisp between October 8 and 10. His second picking date starts a week later with his third and final pick at the end of October. “I don’t think we can pick them like Jonagold,” said Bishop, adding that Honeycrisp should not be picked for the fresh market after October 20 as it tends to lose flavour and colour after a heavy frost.

For storage after harvest, Bishop has never drenched Honeycrisp, but in the future he may look at a calcium dip as his volumes increase.

For Dave Power, another Annapolis Valley apple grower, proper management is the key to producing Honeycrisp.

“One of the biggest things you have to make a commitment to is to try to manage this variety,” he said. “It is not like any other variety. It takes two to three times as much to manage it properly.”

Pruning is quite critical, observed Power. “I try to do most of mine in March and April.”

He chemical thins using Sevin “at a fairly high rate” and follows up with hand thinning three times during the summer, from early July into September.

Close to harvest, Power will apply calcium sprays twice a week to his Honeycrisp block during September. In the past few years, he has also applied two miticide sprays during the growing season, observing, however, “my fear is it might have an impact on colour.”

For harvesting Honeycrisp, Power recommends paying pickers an hourly, rather than a piece rate, and “supervise closely.”

All of this close management has limited the amount of Honeycrisp acreage Power is willing to put in. He has five acres in Honeycrisp and he doesn’t plan to plant any more, as he doesn’t feel he can handle a large acreage.

Blake Sarsfield, who also produces Honeycrisp in the Annapolis, believes strict management should begin right from the time of planting. He recommends growers focus on aggressive fruitlet thinning to avoid tree limb rubbing. Graft unions also have to be closesly monitered, especially on M26 rootstock, he advised.

Sarfield also has his pickers clip stems, which will helps increase his returns at pack-out.

Craig Nichols, the fourth panel member, believes the quality of the apples required for the export market starts before the new trees are planted with carefully prepared ground and the purchase of good quality trees.

Rootstock is also key to Nichols. He has found that Honeycrisp grown on 106 rootstock have less colour than those grown on 11 rootstock; but they tend to be larger.

Nichols also felt crop load management in Honeycrisp is quite critical, commenting “hand thin until you cry, then, thin some more.” He thins by hand as well as spraying with Sevin and acid (NAA).

Nonetheless, he felt Nova Scotia  doesn’t have an over-size problem as much as other Honeycrisp growing regions.

Dr. James Schupp, a Penn State University apple specialist, told the Nova Scotia fruit growers; “if anybody can grow Honeycrisp, you can.”

Honeycrisp grows best along the 45th parallel of latitude, said Dr. Schupp, and any farther south, quality issues arise with colour, calcium pitting and fruit size, “but be wary of managing and    marketing it like MacIntosh.”