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Virginia apple harvest looks good despite drought

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services reported on Monday that the outlook for the 2010 apple crop is very good.

The department has been in contact with growers representing the Southwest Virginia and the Central and the Northern Shenandoah Valley. With few exceptions, growers indicated that the 2010 harvest should be normal, and in some places, even excellent despite record heat and what is turning out to be a major drought.

The earliest apples were ready for harvest approximately a week earlier than usual, starting with Paula Red apples in July, followed in late July/early August by Ginger Golds and Galas. Favorites such as Red and Golden Delicious apples are harvested in September followed by Rome apples in early October, York apples in early to mid-October, Winesaps, Staymans and Granny Smith apples in mid-October, and then Fujis in late October or early November.

Many pick-your-own farms also offer heirloom and heritage varieties of apples.

“Apples are big business in Virginia,” said VDACS Commissioner Matt Lohr said, “and it was a great relief to hear that the harvest should be good this year despite the drought. Virginia is the sixth largest apple growing state in the nation with an estimated 18,000 acres of commercial apple production. In a normal year, we will produce between 5 million and 5.5 million bushels of apples.”

The unusually high temperatures this summer have slowed the apple growth and some of the earlier varieties may run slightly smaller than normal. The sugar content is up, however, and growers expect the apples to have a fantastic taste. The recent rains around the Commonwealth will help the later varieties reach their normal sizes. As the harvest moves later in the season, evening temperatures will begin to drop and that will give the apples the red color Virginia is known for. “In sum,” said Lohr, “Virginia is poised for another good apple harvest.”

Edited by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at