'Much prettier': Apple crop fares well this summer

News-DemocratAugust 23, 2013 

When apple grower Chris Eckert compares this year's cooler-than-normal and rainy growing season with last year's drought and intense heat, there is no question over which was better.

"I preferred this year a lot better," Eckert said.

The apples at Eckert's Orchards in Belleville are now ready for picking. This year's crop of honey crisp apples are the best ever, Eckert said. However, he also said the orchard is seeing fewer apples than last year. But those that have been harvested this season are a better quality.

"I think people who come out and pick apples now may say there are a lot more of them because they are so much prettier," he said. "There are not as many bushels this year as last year, but that being said, we have more than enough apples. The quality of our apple crop this year is very, very good. Apples like cool temperatures and develop better color and shine as a result cool clear nights."

"We think it's a good crop," said Tom Range, owner of Braeutigam Orchards in Belleville. "It is high quality crop that is significantly above average."

In Smithton, Mike Henry said his apples at Simonton Orchards also produced good yields after an unseasonable cool temperatures growing season with excessive rainfall that came earlier during the spring.

"I think it's going to be a pretty decent crop, not a great crop, because of some of the damage from last year," Henry said. "But for now it looks pretty good."

Mohammad Babadoost, who studies fruit and vegetable diseases as an associate professor of plant pathology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said the state's apple crop is very good although a few growers had to deal with some diseased fruit this season.

"We have had more moisture and more disease this year," Babadoost said. "But other than that, this year's crops are much, much better and sales are good."

Henry said last summer's triple-digit temperatures will still leave residual effects on his apple trees for the next three or four years.

"The trees were actually damaged last year," he said. "It will take several years to come out it, I think."

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 239-2526.

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