Good Fruit Grower

November 2013

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Crop load AFFECTS FLA VOR The best-tasting Honeycrisp apples come from trees with a balanced crop load. by Geraldine Warner WSU extension specialist Gwen Hoheisel offers samples of Honeycrisp apples picked from overcropped and moderately cropped trees for comparison. 10 NOVEMBER 2013 Good Fruit Grower PHOTO BY GERALDINE WARNER M arketers says taste, rather than appearance, is what drives consumers to buy apples, and at a pre-harvest Honeycrisp field day in Washington, growers had a chance to compare apples picked from trees with a moderate crop load with those from overcropped trees. The difference in flavor was dramatic. Dr. Ines Hanrahan, project manager for the Washington State Fruit Commission, said the crop load can also affect storability. Washington Honeycrisp growers are advised to pick fruit for long-term storage from evenly loaded trees, not overcropped trees. Fruit on overcropped trees can have delayed color development and the starch can be fully converted to sugars before the fruit is ready to pick colorwise, she said. —Gwen Hoheisel For storability, fruit needs some remaining starch and should be picked at a reading of 4 to 5 on the Honeycrisp starch iodine index that can be found on the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission's Web site at Some people claim to have grown 120 bins per acre of Honeycrisp and had good return bloom, but Hanrahan said Honeycrisp yields need to be somewhat lower than with other varieties. "If you don't get fruit that tastes good on the trees, your crop load is not right," she said. "For people who grow 100 bins per acre with other varieties, 60 or 70 is good." Most Washington packers like Honeycrisp to have at least 55 percent red color, though it can be striped, mottled, or blushed, Hanrahan said. The recommended soluble solids level is 13, as the sugar level will increase in storage. Acid levels decline as the fruit matures, so if the malic acid level is below 0.4 milliequivalents per gram at harvest, it will never be higher and that fruit should not be stored long term. "We feel that 0.5 is a good acid level, but all the other maturity indicators have to be in line first," she said. The acid level is just another indicator for assessing whether the fruit should go into medium or long-term storage. The pre-harvest field day began at Richard Thomason's Maverick Orchard in Brewster. Similar field days were held at the orchards of Mike Robinson in Royal City and Bruce Allen in Yakima. "If you don't get fruit that tastes good on the trees, your crop load is not right." Storage and grafting Thomason said the Washington apple industry will need to find ways to store Honeycrisp longer as volumes increase. Thomason said he stored Honeycrisp apples until May last season and was happy with the results. The fruit needs to be conditioned in regular storage after it comes out of

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