Searing temperatures across South East Australia last week hit many apple and pear growing regions, but good management from growers and quality assurance practices will help ensure consumers still get high quality fruit this season.
“Despite the extreme weather, we have only received reports of minimal heat damage to apples and pears from growers across Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and NSW,” says Mr John Dollisson, Chief Executive Officer of Apple and Pear Australia Ltd (APAL) – the peak industry body representing apple and pear growers nationwide.
“Even where there may have been some sunburn or damage, consumers can still look forward to a season of high quality apples and pears because grading practices ensure only the best fruit reaches the market.”
After apples and pears are picked, they are sorted into different grades that have strict standards to ensure consumers get the quality of fruit they are after.
Any heat-damaged fruit is excluded from the top grades of the main retailers meaning premium quality apples and pears will still be available this season to enjoy even if some fruit gets affected by the extreme temperatures.
Growers can also take steps to minimise the extent of sun damage.
“Growers are well prepared and use the latest best management practices to reduce the damage – such as applying ‘sunscreens’ to the fruit,” says Mr Jesse Reader, Technical Manager at APAL.
Apples and pears get sunburnt in much the same way people can. Sometimes sunburn can just cause superficial damage, but it can also penetrate more deeply causing the fruit to go brown inside. High temperatures can also ‘cook’ the fruit on the tree, making it softer and less crispy.
Pome fruit trees also go into ‘power save mode’ when temperatures exceed about 35 degrees, meaning the fruit growth rate slows as the tree diverts all its resources to essential functions to stay alive.
“The most effective way to protect apples and pears from sun damage is the installation of overhead misters that apply water to the crop and keep temperatures down via evaporative cooling,” says Jesse.
“Other sun protection methods that are more widely used include installing overhead nets that provide shade, spraying a food grade clay-like sunscreen onto the fruit, and just ensuring the trees get enough water to reduce their heat stress.”
To help growers protect fruit when temperatures are high, the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries, with APAL’s support, developed Sun Protection for Fruit: A practical manual for preventing sunburn on fruit (pdf 790kb) and they have online resources for Sunburn protection for apples.
Communication Manager, APAL
03 9329 3511, 0478 029 040
Technical Manager, APAL
03 9329 3511