September 17, 2017 12:37 pm
Updated: September 17, 2017 12:39 pm

Ontario apple growers could face lower yields due to last year’s drought

WATCH ABOVE: Last year's drought is still affecting apple growers.

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Ontario’s apple crop is still recovering from last summer’s drought, and experts are predicting lower than usual yields this year along the shore of Lake Ontario.

Recent indicators from Vineland Ontario predict apple crop yields could be down by as much as 20 per cent this year — not because of the wet summer, but because many trees are still recovering from last year’s drought.

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Apple grower Charlie Waddell thinks his orchard near Joyceville, Ont., will buck the trend but says the last several years have been difficult on his younger apple trees.

“My new orchard down the road, last year it was the drought, combined with a problem called fire blight,” Waddell said. “We irrigated multiple times — I feel it’s still not the same.”

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Hail from earlier this season may have also left small dents on apples, affecting the appearance but not the quality of the fruit.

Waddell says his orchards on Highway 15 managed to avoid the damaging weather conditions.

“In Moscow, my daughter could take a square-mouth shovel and just shovel it up. It laid there until the next morning. Here, we escaped it.”

Vineland Ontario predicts an upside, however, saying the fruit is expected to be larger, juicier, and much brighter in colour.

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Visitor Jennifer Volk was taking advantage of Waddell’s “pick your own apples” option at the orchard with her young son Ben and said she liked what she saw on the apple trees.

“They’re nice and low for me to reach, and looking red and juicy,” she said. “I’m excited to get home and do some baking.”

David Brooke was a little less patient, sampling the fruit while picking his apples.

“The apples that I’ve been trying — hence the fact this one’s almost gone — have actually been amazing, super sweet,” he said.

Waddell says he’s lost 200 of his 3,000 apple trees to “sudden death” tree loss.

He says the exact cause isn’t known but he suspects extreme stress on the trees from harsh winters, drought and this year’s record amounts of rain could be factors.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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