MOORESVILLE — Indiana apple orchards are seeing one of their worst crops in 80 years, forcing many to cancel public apple picking and raise prices.
But don't blame the drought — at least not entirely.
Purdue University fruit scientist Peter Hirst told The Indianapolis Star the apple crop was affected by unusually high March temperatures, which led to early blossoms that were damaged when a frost returned in April.
"The amount of damage you get from a freeze depends on the stage of development," Hirst said. When the frost returned, he said, "we were much further along in development than we normally would be."
The situation got worse when hailstorms struck, knocking young apples off the stem.
The result is the worst apple crop since the 1930s, with many orchards losing nearly their entire crop.
George Adrian of Adrian Orchards in Indianapolis said he lost about 90 percent of the roughly 20,000 bushels he harvests in a typical year.
"We had almost a complete crop loss," he said.
Robin Anderson of Anderson's Orchard in Mooresville said about half his crop is ruined.
Anderson said a good crop at his orchard is 30,000 to 40,000 bushels at about 100 to 150 apples per bushel. Anderson hopes to harvest 20,000 bushels this year.
The apples that did survive will be smaller, he said, and some will be sunburned with tougher, thicker skins, though that shouldn't affect the taste.
The reduced crop is forcing some orchards to raise prices, but others are taking different steps to adapt.
Tuttle Orchards in Greenfield canceled public apple-picking this year. Stuckey Farm in northern Hamilton County did the same.
"The fickle spring weather delivered us a heavy blow this year," Jeff, Shannon, Jordan and James Pierce wrote in a message on the Sheridan orchard's website. "Unfortunately, we lost the majority of the apple crop this year."
Many orchard owners are shipping in apples from other areas of Indiana and outside the state. Other local growers who have an abundance of one variety are trading with those who have other types to increase the variety they can offer.
"We'll still have apples," Adrian said. "It doesn't make any difference. We'll find apples one way or another."