Peach, apple harvest setting early pace
Around Illinois, fruit tree crops are developing at an accelerated pace, sparked by a warm spring which prompted early bloom
Published: Jun 21, 2012
Peach harvest started early in Southern Illinois, and early apple varieties are being picked in Central Illinois.
Around Illinois, fruit tree crops are developing at an accelerated pace, sparked by a warm spring which prompted early bloom. The tree fruit crop is as much as two weeks ahead of usual in some parts of the state.
In Calhoun County, Blake Kamp and his family began harvesting early peach varieties two weeks ago at the Hagen Family Orchard near Golden Eagle. He estimated the apple crop would be ready two to three weeks earlier than usual. The family has 20 acres of producing peach trees and 35 acres of apple trees.
“It’s been good, real good,” Kamp said of the peach yields to date. “And the warm weather really helped open it (the apple crop) up.”
The Kamps’ orchard crops were not damaged by a mid-April freeze; however, growers in other parts of the state were not as lucky.
Peoria County grower Kurt Christ estimated his apple crop will be reduced by 50 percent overall. “We’ve got an apple crop (but) not a big one,” said Christ, owner of Christ Orchard near Elmwood.
Christ Orchard raises apricots, plums, and 50 varieties of apples on 20 acres. The family also operates a grain farm. Damage from an April frost varied among fruit varieties and whether a tree was growing on high ground or near a lake.
Last week, the Christ family nearly was finished harvesting an early apple variety they usually pick about July 4. They’ve already finished harvesting their sweet cherry crop and have started summer pruning.
“We’re doing July work in June,” Christ said with a chuckle.
Across the Midwest, fruit crop development is two to three weeks ahead of normal, according to Christ. He advised customer to contact growers about placing early orders, especially for favorite varieties.
The apple crop at Champaign County’s Curtis Orchard also will be earlier and lighter than usual due to the April freeze, but the impact and development vary among different varieties, according to Randy Graham, the orchard co-owner.
“We’ve already had customers put in their names for certain varieties,” Graham added.
Curtis Orchard is an 80-acre farm with more than 4,500 apple trees, 20 acres of pumpkins, and a country store.
In addition to an early, warm spring with an April freeze, recent growing conditions have been dry, but Graham said the dryness does have some benefits.
“The dry weather has kept disease pressure down,” he said. “Pest wise, we’re using less spray this year” for insects.
The weather also has helped the orchard’s construction project, a 2,800-square-foot expansion to the store. The new space will be used to expand opportunities for school tours and to offer more products at the store.
Coles County grower Joe Moran emphasized the need for rain at Moran’s Orchard, near Trilla. Moran raises 10 varieties of peaches on about 8 acres and 20 varieties of apples on 25 acres. He also grows plums, pears, and strawberries.
Moran estimated he lost about 80 percent of his peach crop and 75 percent of his apple crop due to the April frost. Some of the apples that survived are misshapen and will not bring a premium price. They will be used to make cider, he said.
Moran also has seen early crop development. His strawberry crop was finished by the third week of May, not the first week of June as it usual. Moran speculated he will finish picking his late-variety apples the first week of October, not the second.
Given weather issues across the Midwest and other fruit-production areas, yield reductions will be reflected in the market. “The price of fruit is going to be up this year,” Moran said.
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