Odd weather in bloom for area orchards

By Union Democrat staff February 17, 2012 08:00 am

This year’s unusual weather patterns have left apple growers in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties uncertain about what kind of harvest they are in for this season.

Growers are optimistic about another good growing year, but several pitfalls remain ahead of them during the next three months, according to Alex Ott of the Fresno-based California Apple Commission.

"We’re always concerned when we don’t get a lot of wet weather and when it’s unusually warm in January and February,” he said.

He said the key weather events growers are looking to avoid are late rains and freezing temperatures in March.

Rainy weather late in the growing season causes bees to become less active. The bees are necessary to pollinate the apple tree flowers and can greatly affect yields.

Unseasonably cold temperatures, meanwhile, can cause blooms to freeze and fall off.

“This is always the part of the season when we get a little nervous about the weather,” Ott said. “Once you get past March and April we will have a better understanding of the crop.”

He said the harvest generally lasts from July to October. Among apple growers, the Mother Lode region is considered a microclimate, which is ideal for growing red apples and Granny Smiths.

California orchards produced 120 million pounds of fresh apples last year, Ott said.

The incidence of blight was low in the foothill region last season due to cool springtime temperatures and low rainfall during the blooming period, according to an annual report by the Apple Commission, released earlier this month.

Contact Ryan Campbell at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or 588-4526.