Good Fruit Grower

October 2015

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 21 of 47

22 OCTOBER 2015 GOOD FRUIT GROWER IFTA Washington State study tour As volumes of Honeycrisp increase, high quality will be key to success. by Geraldine Warner D espite the many challenges of growing Honeycrisp and the advent of many prom- ising new varieties, Bruce Allen is still a big Honeycrisp fan. "Everybody has a slightly different taste preference," he acknowledged. "But, personally, I hav- en't found anything that's as good as a good Honeycrisp. There are a lot of varieties out there that probably have good eating quality, and they are probably more consis- tent than Honeycrisp. But Honeycrisp is in the market- place. Everybody wants it. You don't have to develop a marketing program to introduce your product." Allen's Chiawana Orchard in Yakima was a stop on the International Fruit Tree Association's summer tour in Washington. Karen Lewis, Washington State University extension specialist, introduced Allen as a large Honeycrisp grower who has some of the oldest plantings in Washington and is also growing the variety in New Zealand. "He's absolutely passionate about everyone getting it right so that Honeycrisp is a fantastic eating experience every time, everywhere, regardless of where it's grown," Lewis said. Allen, who also owns the packing company Columbia Reach in Yakima, said packouts ranged from 2 to 19 packs per bin at his warehouse last season. New, red strains of Honeycrisp—if they color better and more uniformly— might enhance the ability of a good grower to deliver a more consistent product to the marketplace, he believes. "Right now, with standard Honeycrisp, unless you're in Nova Scotia or New Zealand, your first pick looks pretty good, and your second pick may be OK, but you've got a fair bit of fruit out there where you struggle to get acceptable external color and you get to the point where that fruit is going to get overmature." Fruit not picked at the right maturity can develop stem splits and is prone to picking damage. At Allen's orchards, some of the fruit is sorted out during harvest. In a good season, 10 percent of the fruit might go on the ground, but other years it might be more than 20 percent, primarily because of stem bowl splits. Allen said growers need to be cautious about plant- ing more Honeycrisp because of the likelihood that prices will slip and quality expectations rise as volume increases. Washington produced 4.6 million boxes in 2013 and 6.6 million boxes last season. "My guess is in the next two years we will be shipping 12 to 14 million boxes out of Washington, and we will get up to 20 million," he said. "It's going to be our No. 3 vari- ety, I think, within five years. At 12 million, can you sell 36s and 48s? Can you sell the really low-colored second grade? If you're only getting $35 a carton and 10 packs per bin and you're only 55 bins per acre, I think there's a lot of other things you could have planted that would give you a better gross return. But if you can do 18 packs and 100 bins, $35 is pretty good money." Rootstocks Allen has tried both vertical and angled trellis systems and says he's enamored with the multi-leader system on a precocious and vigorous rootstock, which is economical to plant and easy to manage. "When you run the numbers on your tree cost per acre, if you get a Bibaum (biaxis) tree that fills the space of two M.9-size trees, you've cut your tree cost in half," he observed. "Good growers can fill the canopy really quick." Allen said he tries every rootstock that comes out and then figures out which are vigorous and suitable for weak soils or replant sites. With Honeycrisp, he's tried Malling Merton 106 (which developed phytophthora root rot), Geneva 11, 16, 41, 30, and 895. Bruce Allen PASSION Bruce Allen has some of the oldest Honeycrisp plantings in Washington State. He shared his experiences with the variety on the IFTA tour.

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Good Fruit Grower - October 2015