Extreme weather takes a bite out of Ohio’s apple crop

October is National Apple Month, but for growers impacted by this year’s unusual weather it will be a bittersweet celebration.

According to a recent article in The Columbus Dispatch, extreme weather during the spring and summer has cut Ohio’s apple harvest almost in half. Last month, the U.S.D.A reported that nearly 40 percent of fruit crops in Ohio were in poor condition. Only four percent of the state’s apple crop was considered in excellent condition.

“This is one of the worst seasons I’ve experienced,” said Ken Golding, a Perry Township-based grower, in The News Herald. “Out of all the years I’ve been growing apples, there are only two other years we’ve had this kind of problem.”

The problem for apple growers was a laundry list of climate conditions, including an unusually warm spring and a brutal summer drought. Apple trees bloomed early this year, in March instead of April, leaving them susceptible to frosts.

As a result, Andy Lynd, an apple grower in Pataskala, told The Columbus Dispatch that the drought has reduced the size of his orchard’s apples and overall crop. The drought might also have long-term ramifications for his trees.

“We lost some newly planted trees to drought,” said Lynd.  “Most of them survived, but they just didn’t grow.”

For consumers, a smaller apple crop will mean higher prices. However, the upside is that this year’s crop of apples should be sweeter and more flavorful than in other years.

To make the most of this season’s limited, but tasty apple crop, here are some tips from www.ohioapples.com on how to select, store and prepare apples:

  • Select apples that are bruise-free and handle apples gently to prevent bruising
  • Select apples that are firm to the touch for the best flavor and crunchiness
  • Store apples in the refrigerator to slow ripening and maintain flavor
  • Wash individually sold apples in cool water before serving
  • Store apples away from strong-smelling foods to prevent them from absorbing unpleasant odors
  • Coat apple slices in a mixture of one part lemon juice to three parts water or 100-percent apple juice to reduce browning

Photo obtained from: michfb.com

Preview: 2012 Farm Science Review

A yearly agriculture event, the Farm Science Review (FSR), marks its 50th anniversary this year in Ohio.

Taking place September 18, 19 and 20, the FSR attracts nearly 140,000 visitors from the U.S. and Canada who come to learn about the latest in agricultural research, products and services, and experience educational exhibits, presentations and demonstrations relating to natural-resource management and the crop and livestock industries. 

According to its website, this year’s three-day event will feature:
  • Millions worth of machinery
  • The Ohio Farmer Conservation awards — Thursday, September 20 at 11:30 a.m.
  • Farm, home and health-safety information 
  • Hands-on Global Positioning Systems (GPS) demonstrations 
  • Conservation-practice programs 
  • Harvesting, strip-tilling, global positioning, manure and tillage field demonstrations 
  • Equipment demonstrations focused on improved nutrient placement
For a full schedule of events, click here.

Three individuals will also be inducted to the FSR Hall of Fame, including Professor Jim Beurlein with The Ohio State University, Mike Gahn, DuPont Pioneer representative and Dr. Bobby Moser, past vice president and dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

FSR is located at The Ohio State University’s Molly Caren Agricultural Center in London, Ohio, and is sponsored by the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

Are you planning to attend this year’s Farm Science Review? If so, what are you most interested in learning about and/or seeing?

Photo obtained from: http://fsr.osu.edu/

Farm Bill Scenarios

Congressional legislation is usually hotly contested and last minute, but the looming expiration of the Farm Bill September 30 is especially thorny. 

“I’m not sure which day, I’m not sure which month, but there will be a new farm bill,” said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, as reported in an Agri-Pulse story.

Why so complicated? A Chicago Tribune story notes election-year politics, a deeply divided Congress and limited days for congressional action — Congress is in session for only eight days when it resumes September 10. Agri-Pulse notes the several “very important priorities” also requiring congressional attention such as “military sequestration, tax code issues and a continuing resolution to address spending for the next six months.” An Argus Leader story notes “uncertainty from lawmakers about proposed nutrition program reforms within the bill and lack of interest from those in urban areas.” 

But, it’s not only farmers and producers whom are affected by the delay.

“It's not just important to the people who work the land, it's important to everybody who buys food in the grocery store," said Pam Johnson, an Iowa farmer quoted in a Chicago Tribune story. 

“All of us need food, and all of us recognize that when we have a drought like we had this year, it’s going to impact our food prices, it’s going to impact our families,” said Sioux Falls, Rep. Kristi Noem, as reported by Argus Leader.

Industry affiliates such as seed, feed, nutrient and equipment suppliers, ag lenders and others, are also greatly impacted. The Farm Bill determines policies that are crucial to farmers’ and producers’ future business decisions, such as outlays for crop insurance and disaster protection. Not having this forecast doesn’t allow them to have structured financial plans and doesn’t give industry affiliates the ability to estimate projected business traffic.

What can happen?

Farm Bill scenarios after September 30:
•    Pass a bill with regular order
•    Pass a short-term extension of current law
•    Do nothing and therefore revert to the 1949 version of the bill

“The drought has made the need for a renewal of that program extremely urgent,” states the Argus Leader story.   

"Farm Bill Now," a group of 40 farm and agriculture-related organizations, will rally on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol September 12 to lobby lawmakers.

“I’m basically telling both sides that, as the drought has demonstrated in the Midwest this year and in the Southwest the last two years, economic certainty is important to farmers and their bankers and ultimately consumers. Let’s do a farm bill. Let’s do the responsible thing,” said Lucas.