Michigan apple growers expected to harvest 20.3 million bushels in 2017

Michigan apple growers are expected to harvest 20 million bushels this year.

OCEANA COUNTY, MICH. - The big reason the Michigan apple crop will be lower this year is the damaging frost event in early May.

At farmer Phil Carter's orchard in Oceana County, the temperature dropped to 22 degrees on the night of May 7.

"The unusual part about it was it stayed cold all night long," said Carter.

Trees on high ground are producing a decent crop. But the trees growing on lower ground are nearly empty.

"Most of our varieties are a total loss," said Carter.

Michigan's apple growers will harvest approximately 20.3 million bushels of apples this year, according to the official crop estimate announced today at the US Apple Outlook meeting in Chicago.

Industry members say that frost event is to blame for the reduced crop size.

In 2016, Michigan growers harvested a robust 28 million bushels of apples, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. There are more than 11.3 million apple trees in commercial production, covering 35,500 acres on 825 family-run farms in Michigan.

"There is more fruit here than I expected," said Amy Irish-Brown, Michigan State University Extension fruit production educator.

The harvest is a week or two away in some orchards around the region.

Irish-Brown is thankful damage from that May frost turned out to be spotty. "It can vary from mile to mile," said Irish-Brown.

Many farmers on the ridge northwest of Grand Rapids are having great years.

A slightly smaller apple crop, in this case, is something to celebrate.

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