Apples are big sellers in the US. With over 100 cultivars, from Honeycrisp to Golden Delicious, there is no dearth of variety in terms of size, shape, taste, or color. But irrespective of which apple variety is grown, packed, or traded, supplying consistent quality is imperative. With that in mind, here’s how to make the most of this apple harvest season.
Growing the right apple cultivar
Apple growers who sell directly to consumers should grow 5 to 6 cultivars. This spreads the harvest season and reduces high labor requirements during a specific period.
Growers who sell to packers or processors are better off planting just 2 to 3 cultivars like Fuji, Gala, Red Delicious, and Empire. The best practice is to first determine which cultivar a pack house typically sells and then plant it.
Thinning to ensure large, marketable apples
The trick to large, juicy fruits during harvest is completing the thinning early. It results in a better return bloom. Thinning can be done chemically or by hand. But when done manually, it should begin no later than mid-June. For chemical thinning windows, hop over here.
Harvesting apples at just the right time
Quality is key when it comes to maximizing the apple harvest season. Buyers not only judge color, odor, cleanliness, shape, defects, but also ripeness. Therefore, to attain the highest quality in apples, they must be harvested at the right time.
The precise maturation time differs for each apple variety and weather condition.Instead of depending upon a specific date, measure the harvest time through other indicators.
For instance, varieties like Honeycrisp are firm, juicy, crisp, and have good color when mature. Whereas in varieties like Red Delicious, color is not a reliable measure of maturity. They turn red long before the apple is ripe.
Improving food safety practices
Pesticides, chemicals, manure: growers handle them in the normal course of operations. All of these on-farm activities are a potential source of contamination. Following Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Handling Practices (GHP) ensures safer, better quality apples, which diminish the chances of recalls.
Relying on accurate grading technology
Good harvest practices, including a well-trained picking crew, are important to marketing apples. But post-harvest handling, particularly grading, are critical to a successful apple season.
The reason being losses primarily occur due to low-quality attributes. Both size and color make a massive difference. Accurate grading alone can make the harvest season stellar since quality and price are synonymous in apple production.
For instance, a Washington Extra Fancy Red Delicious fetches a higher price, because it has “a more uniform, more intense, deeper shade of red than” say a U.S. Extra Fancy. Moreover, the size is much larger.
Essentially, understanding the proper grading specifications and matching the supply to them cuts needless loss and improves ROI. Using technology like Intello Track, growers, packers, shippers, and traders can maintain high quality in apples and match them to required client specifications. Thus, sell the fruit at a premium price, and attain higher financial returns.
How the tech works towards your success:
Intello Track uses AI and computer vision to accurately and objectively measure all quality parameters in apples within seconds. The solution then builds a detailed breakdown of the size, color, shape, and defects of the scanned fruit. A report with paired image logs for each parameter is generated instantly, acting as visual proof of quality even before delivery.
The easy-to-use app also sends alerts on deviation from preset quality standards, ensuring the apples you supply are of consistent quality. With the information stored on a cloud, assessment and monitoring can happen from anywhere, not just a farm gate, pack house, or DC.
Moreover, Intello Track completely replaces the traditional quality process at every stage of the apple supply chain. So, there is no additional wear and tear or bruising.
Interested in juicing the most of your apple season? Get in touch!
Agriculture Alternatives: Apple Production, PennState Extension, 2017
Preventing Post-harvest Losses in the Apple Supply Chain Guide, FAO, 2018