The Thriving Apple Industry in Upstate New York
Propelled by its unique geographical advantages, the apple industry flourishes in America’s Northeastern region. These meticulous farmers understand both the art and science of producing beautiful fruit ready for store shelves. One popular variety, the Honeycrisp, is an important source of revenue for the region. John Ivison, Helena Branch Manager in upstate New York, sheds light on what it takes to grow this consumer-favorite apple.
“We benefit from the frost protection given to us by Lake Ontario,” says Ivison.
Among the challenges facing apple production in this region, frost is most unpredictable. According to Ivison, late-spring cold snaps are responsible for some crop damage this season, especially on farms farther away from the lake’s protection. While frost mitigation techniques can help, crop insurance is the best way to manage losses. What farmers can control are threats from insects and diseases and nutritional issues, but it takes a lot of time and effort.
“At our branch, there are four of us that scout for apple producers across the three-county area,” says Ivison. “On a schedule of 7-14 days, we are making trips through their orchards making sure there aren’t any problems.”
In addition to a visual evaluation, Ivison and his team rely on traps to track moth populations and time insecticide applications. New camera traps are also helping make the scouting process more efficient. One of their biggest foes is the codling moth that not only causes cosmetic damage, but also burrows into the apple. With so much apple production in one area, Ivison says it’s not unusual to get a significant pocket of high insect pressure. The key to an effective response is an insecticide program with multiple modes of action. For example, they often start with a certain family of chemistry in June, and make a transition in July that’s followed by a different family of chemistry in August.
“We have a planned approach from beginning to end,” says Ivison. “We anticipate what the problems will be, confirm the product we put in the field is the one that's working and doing the job, and we have to anticipate what's coming next.”
In addition to insects, there are a plethora of diseases to manage in an orchard ecosystem, plus nutritional disorders that can result in blemishes. The complexity and variety of these tank mixes throughout the season makes adjuvants an important part of the strategy every year. From water conditioning and compatibility to spreading and coverage, adjuvants help ensure mixtures perform the way they should.
“When you think about the cost of labor and diesel fuel, producers need to be efficient,” says Ivison. “We have to make sure we have mixtures that are safe, perform the way we want, and gets the job done.”
All of these tactics help ensure the best fruit makes it to the grading line, and ultimately, the consumer. In about a month, both Honeycrisp and Gala apples will hit store shelves. According to Ivison, recent rains in the area are helping with fruit size, setting farmers up for harvest full of plump, juicy apples.
When it comes to achieving the right color, shape and taste, New York apple farmers know spending time to perfect the growing process pays off. For help with your own fruit operation, contact your local Helena representative. Tune in to Episode 36 of the FieldLink Podcast to learn more about apple production from John Ivison.