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'Best we've had in about 20 years'

Associated Press • Nov 7, 2016 at 3:30 PM

It's been a record breaking year for Michigan's apple farmers Michigan Apple Committee Communications Director Gretchen Mensing said.

"At this point growers are wrapping up their season. But, it's been a good one," she said.

In 2015, Michigan growers harvested about 24 million bushels of apples.

Average Michigan apple harvest is about 22.83 million bushels per year, the committee stated in a release.

The committee projected that Michigan growers would produce 31 million bushels – 1.302 billion pounds – of apples this year. This is an increase seven million bushels from last year.

There are more than 11.3 million apple trees in commercial production and they cover 35,500 acres on 825 family-run farms in Michigan.

Committee Executive Director Diane Smith said more growers have participated in high density grow practices, which is 1,000 trees per acre.

Andy Hefele, owner of Knaebe's Mmmunchy Krunchy Apple Farm in Rogers City, said it's been an excellent year for the orchard.

"We had a bumper crop, they're still falling off the trees," Hefele said. "It was a hot summer and so the apples did really well. I would say it's the best we've had in about 20 years."

There are a few reasons the crop did so well this year, Nikki Rothwell, Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Center coordinator and educator, said.

"It's a great year for growing apples and cherries." Rothwell said.

There wasn't a hard frost in the spring, which is often how the crops are damaged, Rothwell said.

"We did see some rain in the fall which might have slowed down harvest," she said. "But we also had a long season because of the great temperatures."

Apples need two things to thrive, she said.

"They need good pollination weather in the spring," Rothwell said. "The trees bloom in May and this year it was warm which is good for bee activity. Bees are important to apple crops they like to fly and pollinate in warm conditions."

The other factor she discussed was is there was low disease pressure.

"Fungus thrives on warm and wet conditions," Rothwell said. "Because it was warm and dry fungus levels were low. We just didn't have as much pressure from disease this year.

"I think growers are pleased with the quantity of the crop."

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