LANSING, MI —With the majority of Michigan’s apple growing region located along the coast of Lake Michigan, it is clear that proximity to the Great Lakes makes a difference in producing high-quality, flavorful apples.
“Being surrounded by the Great Lakes, Michigan is somewhat sheltered from severe weather coming across the Midwest,” said Amy Irish-Brown, district fruit educator with Michigan State University Extension. “We still have our fair share of bad weather, but the lakes put us in a unique position of mostly cool nights, warm sunny days, and plenty of moisture – important factors in producing a healthy crop of apples.”
Even cold winters play an important role, keeping the trees dormant, resting to preserve energy to grow future crops, and protecting them from potential damage. Apple trees are resilient and can withstand very cold temperatures, down to -25 Fahrenheit before they would experience negative impact from the cold.
But climate is only part of the equation. Soil is also a key factor in apple production. Soil that is not too heavy with just the right mix of nutrients keep the trees healthy across their lifespan.
“Apple trees are constantly working to distribute moisture and nutrients throughout. Branches, leaves and fruit all need energy for the current crop and the crops to come,” said Irish-Brown. “That makes the soil in which the orchards are planted of utmost importance. Nutrients, pH levels, and moisture levels are monitored to keep the trees in top shape.”
Topography is also a factor in apple production. The landscape of a growing region plays a role in the health of the orchard. Lower areas can experience a drop in temperature. Higher areas could be more exposed to the elements. Apple growers take great care in planning the layout of the orchards with this consideration.
“Of course, we believe the apple grower is the most important factor in producing, flavorful, high-quality apples,” said Diane Smith, executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee. “Growers are part scientist and part artist – it is a unique and complex balance, making decisions based on weather, timing, and potential threats such as disease and pests. They rely on research, experience, and their ‘gut’ on a daily basis as they produce their crop. We are lucky in Michigan to have so many elements in our favor contributing to the best tasting apples in the world!”
The Michigan Apple Committee is a grower-funded nonprofit organization
Editor’s Note: Recipes using apples will be printed in the next edition.
This was printed in the September 24, 2014 - October 4, 2014 edition.