Ontario apple grower update

Ontario apple grower update
May 28, 2021

Weather, pests and labour have all presented challenges for producers to address

By Jackie Clark
Staff Writer

Apple growers in Ontario are currently weighing options for pest control and thinning programs in their orchards.

This growing season started off with an early patch of spring followed by cooler temperatures.

“The bloom was a little early,” Cathy McKay, chair of the board of the Ontario Apple Growers, told Farms.com. After that “we had a few light frosts, but I would say overall I don’t expect it to be too hard on the crop. Certainly not like 2012 where we had a significantly reduced crop.”

Since then “we’ve had, I would say, a very dry spring. Most of the province is dry at the moment,” she added. “If apple growers can irrigate, they are, and probably starting a little earlier than normal.”

That dry weather has influenced pest challenges growers are currently contending with.  

“Insects prefer it dry, they do well in a dry year. Diseases like apple scab don’t do so well in a dry year,” McKay explained. “The biggest pest story so far this spring is the gypsy moth. It’s very active in the province, it is in orchards.”

However, apple growers have “lots of tools to look after gypsy moths,” she added. “People are spraying for them.”

Currently producers are doing “really important decision-making (about) what sort of thinning program to have,” McKay said. “Once the blossoms are set they have to decide whether to put chemical thinner on and how much, and their strategy for that. That’s always a bit of an art and a bit of a science.”

This year, labour availability was more certain than last year, due to improved preparation around COVID-19 protocol.

“Last year it was kind of an unknown and for a few weeks in early spring last year the boarders were closed, and then workers started coming,” McKay explained. Workers “might have been a bit delayed this year from some places like the eastern Caribbean … but mostly they’ve come, and a lot of them have been vaccinated, have had their first shot.”

Though the apple industry is overcoming those short-term obstacles, in the longer-term record keeping has become a burdensome task.

“There’s just more and more paperwork (from) several levels of government. It’s getting onerous for people,” McKay said.

Richard-7\iStock\Getty Images Plus photo

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