Apple harvest not ripe for the pickin’

The Associated Press

CEDAR RAPIDS &#8212 A weather roller coaster last spring left a scant crop of apples for this fall’s harvest, growers say.

A warm spell in March caused trees to start budding and a freeze in April killed off many of the blossoms, said Bob “Chug” Wilson of Wilson’s Orchard in Iowa City.

Wilson said he expects to sell out of apples early this year because his orchard produced only about 20 percent of the usual crop. The shortage has caused Wilson to charge $1.35 per pound for u-pick apples – up from the usual price of 99 cents per pound.

He said yields could also be low because of a phenomenon called alternate bearing, in which trees produce less a year after overbearing. Trees overproduced last year after a total crop loss in 2005.

Kaimour Orchard in Cedar Rapids has scrapped the season because its crop was so badly damaged, said Margaret Sears, an official with the orchard.

While some orchards have written off the season, Allen’s Orchard near Marion is reselling apples from other orchards. Morris Allen, the orchard’s owner, said his trees produced about 5 percent of their usual crop.

While it may have been simpler to scratch the entire season, bringing in apples from other orchards has allowed him to keep selling at farmers markets, which require produce be grown within the state, he said.

Orchards in northeast Iowa faired better this year, said Paul Domoto, an ISU fruit specialist.

Allen said few customers have been complaining about the higher prices for apples this fall.

“When you compare the number of apples you get for 10 bucks … apples are still a good buy,” he said.