Honeycrisp crisis? Orchards across Wisconsin may see a less than fruitful crop this season

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 3:18 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 20, 2021 at 4:06 PM CDT
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COTTAGE GROVE, Wis. (WMTV) - Some orchards across the state of Wisconsin are experiencing a Honeycrisp crisis. Many of the favored apple tree variety are struggling to produce fruit this season.

“We’re out here every day checking on everything and making sure that things are going well,” Liz Griffith, Door Creek Orchard Manager said.

This year, the orchard’s Honeycrisp trees are looking bare.

“There weren’t any flower buds emerging in late April and May, when the other trees were blooming, and we said, ‘Oh…there aren’t any flowers.’” Griffith said.

No flowers means no fruit.

“I think the main culprit is the drought that we had last year,” Amaya Atucha, state fruit crop specialist and UW-Madison Assoc. Prof. in the Dept. of Horticulture said. “This is not something we’ve seen on Honeycrisp; we’ve seen this on many of the early varieties.”

Atucha said there was also a spring frost that impacted struggling plants across the state.

“Some people may be conscious of the drought for this season, but last year we saw the same thing throughout the entire state, so when we look back at the records, that drought happened during the period of flower induction,” Atucha said.

Griffith estimates her Honeycrisp trees will only bear about 20 pounds of fruit, when they normally produce thousands.

Even though some orchards will lack Honeycrisp and other early apple varieties, like Door Creek, many with good irrigation systems will still have enough to sell this fall.

“We’re still here and we’re still trying to get you your food,” Griffith said. “Yes, it is becoming harder and harder for sure.”

Griffith said hope is not lost for her Honeycrisp trees for 2022. By adding nutrition to the leaves and factoring in the fruit bearing cycles of apple trees, Griffith is optimistic that there will be a much better crop of Honeycrisp apples next season. Atucha estimates a similar outcome across the state.

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