A lower than anticipated yield has been caused by cold weather experienced across the South East at the end of March.
June drop occurs eight weeks after flowering and will continue into July. Young fruitlets are shed naturally by the trees due to issues such as poor pollination or in this instance poor weather conditions after flowering began. Thinning would normally then take place by hand, but this year it is being held back so that too many fruits are not removed.
Nigel Stewart, technical director at AC Goatham & Son said: “This is incredibly frustrating after what promised to be a perfect start to the season. The prolonged cold and cloudy weather which was experienced in many parts of the South East during the early spring is the cause of this excessive June drop. The ground was simply still too cold once the blossom began to flower and the trees were not ready to support a full crop. We had anticipated an increase in the number of apples we would grow this year due to our major programme of new orchard planting. It is hoped that our harvest will be of a similar size to the 2017/18 season, but we are still evaluating the crop and it could be lower.”
“If everything continues as planned this will mean a shorter British apple season in store with supplies likely to run out several weeks before the industry would have hoped. This is of course dependent on there being no further issues with the crop. We are now nervously watching the weather, to see if there is a break in the hot spell, which may trigger storms where hail could also have a devastating effect.”
Other major growers have suffered similar issues. Fellow Kent grower Paul Mansfield with orchards across mid and East Kent has seen a similar level of June drop across his orchards and comments: “The level of drop has also been higher than expected across our apple orchards. British growers like myself and AC Goatham & Son have both been investing in major new orchard plantings over the last several years and we would have expected to achieve much greater potential this year thanks to that. Unfortunately, we just can’t control the weather and for a second year it has played a significant role in the volume of quality British apples available.”