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Tenbury apple growers face worst harvest in years
9:38am Thursday 21st June 2012 in Farming
APPLE growers in Tenbury are preparing themselves for the worst harvest in many years.
Late frosts have wreaked havoc among many orchards because of damage to the fragile blossom.
The heavy rain has added to the problem as bees, which are vital to the pollination process, do not fly in the wet.
Reg Farmer, chairman of the Tenbury Apple Group, warns that growers are still calculating the cost of what will be a very poor crop of early apples.
He said: “The blossom is very fragile and has been affected by frosts as late as June. A bad summer comes after two exceptional years and this time early blossom looked promising, only to be damaged.
“We have had very good crops in the past two years but this one is going to be very different.
“The Teme Valley is one of the most important areas in the country for apples and still plays an important part in the local economy.”
He saidthe destruction of the blossom can be very patchy with one part of an orchard badly damaged while a nearby sheltered area could escape.
Eastham’s David Spilsby has a collection of 100 varieties of different apples.
“This is an unusual year.
Some varieties have done well while others have failed to produce any fruit at all due to the unusual weather,” he said.
Younger trees are also usually much better able to stand up to the frost than older ones.
Frost has always been a problem for apple growers and in the past a number of different techniques have been tried to stave off the worst effects.
Mr Farmer said: “We know that in some cases old growers used to light fires in the orchards to try to keep the frost at bay.
But I do not think that this made a lot of difference. In the end nature usually has the upper hand.”
The first apples are usually harvested in July and this can continue until the end of August.
Early cooking varieties such as Bramley are most likely to be hardest hit by the late frost.
The Tenbury Apple Group, which plays a key role in the annual Apple Fest in the town, has identified more than 300 different varieties grown in the area.
Reg Farmer believes that it is growers on the continent that will benefit from the poor English summer in the Teme Valley.
“The supermarkets will make sure they are all right and will get the apples that they need from elsewhere