Good Fruit Grower

December 2012

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He said it's hard to know when to stop planting a high-priced, hard-to-find variety. No other varieties excite him as much as Honeycrisp, though he is nervous about how many acres are being planted. A Washington tree sur- "In every conversation I've had with retailers, Honeycrisp comes up in the first three to four minutes." —Mike Robinson vey conducted in 2011 showed there were 9,000 acres of Honeycrisp in the ground, out of a total of 167,500 acres of apples. This fall, the state produced 3.7 million boxes of Honeycrisp, which amounted to less than 4 percent of the crop. Scott Jacky with Valley Fruit in Yakima said labor and harvest management are key factors in deciding what to plant and where. Honeycrisp is still a good variety and making a lot of money, but if the company has a lot of Honeycrisp in one location, it might consider planting some other variety or upgrading Gala and Fuji to new strains. "We try to have our ranches set up so we have one crew of one size that can start with Galas and work its way through to Fujis and Pink Ladies," he said. Dale Goldy, assistant general manager of Stemilt Ag Services, expects that the market for Honeycrisp will con- tinue to expand as the industry learns how to store it later in the season. He visited a Walmart store in Montana this fall where the apple display had three trays of Honeycrisp versus one or two trays of other varieties, and Honeycrisp was selling faster at $2.49 a pound than the other varieties at $0.99 or $1.49. Goldy, who has been growing Honeycrisp since about 1995, said he would never have guessed that demand for the variety would be so high. "We've blown my crystal ball out of the water." Despite the tantalizing returns, some producers say they would think hard before planting more Honeycrisp. Brent Milne, horticulturist with McDougall and Sons in Wenatchee, Washington, said he has "guarded expectations" about the variety. Game plan "I know some others in the industry are bullish on that particular cultivar—and that's great—but from our stand- point, dedicating more ground to that variety is not something that's in our game plan. "Usually, the returns are there," he said. "But, good grief, from a horticultural management standpoint and the amount of fruit you lose because of the physiological maladies, it definitely gives you pause." Tom Gausman, with the consulting service AgriMACS, Inc., based in Pateros, Washington, said that though returns for Honeycrisp are phenomenal, everyone seems concerned about where the price is going to go, and nerv- ous about having too much of their manifest in that variety. Historically, prices for new varieties have been high at first, but then dropped off dramatically, not gradually, he pointed out. When a variety has poor packouts, as Honeycrisp does, that's particularly worrisome. • Blossom Protect™ Always use with Buffer Protect™ to optimize the efficacy of Blossom Protect™. GOOD FRUIT GROWER DECEMBER 2012 35 FIRE BLIGHT ANTAGONIS ANTAGONISTS PRO TECTIVE SHIELD

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