What is in this article?:
- North Carolina apples survive 100 inches of rain, rare disease attack
- More bad news
- Rare disease problem
• Despite record rainfall, the North Carolina apple crop yielded reasonably well this year, with 80 percent of normal production in some areas and up to 100 percent in others, depending on variety and location.
MIKE STEPP, right, assists as employee Robert Knowles prunes unproductive wood from an apple tree.
Rare disease problem
“We had one rot that we are not accustomed to, and we had to work to control it.”
“It is called Glomerella leaf spot. It starts on the leaves and specks on the fruit. The whole tree can be defoliated. It is similar to bitter rot, which we are more familiar with.”
Both are controlled with fungicides, which Stepp applies with airblast sprayers.
All this disease control led to a higher cost of production. “We spent a lot more money on disease control than we normally would,” he said.
Hillcrest is a pick-your-own orchard covering 40 acres with about 6,000 trees. To the extent possible, visiting consumers harvest all the fruit.
“But we might sell a few apples to processors or packers if we have too many of one variety,” he said.
The rain that fell at Hillcrest Orchards didn't have a catastrophic effect on the apples.
“We actually raised a good crop,” Stepp said. “And the rain wound up about the time our (pick-your-own) season started. We have had pretty good weather since then so the rain didn't interfere with harvest.”
Stepp was well aware of the low price of apples on the open market, but because his customers pay a set price for whatever they pick, the open market doesn’t really affect him.
“We are selling our apples for the same price as last year,” he said. “We raised it a little after the 2011 crop.”
Apples were by no means the only crop in Henderson County affected by the rain. “We had millions in market losses this year,” Owings said. “The last estimate I heard was $47 million, and we are not done yet.”
Ornamentals, vegetables, pumpkins, corn and sod were just some of the farm enterprises that took a hit.