Updated: August 12, 2021 06:45 PM
Created: August 12, 2021 05:21 PM
As Minnesota apple orchards open for the season, the summer drought is impacting some of the early crops.
"2021, weather-wise, has been very interesting," said Chris Aamodt, president and owner of Aamodt's Apple Farm, in Stillwater. "It's kind of a hodgepodge of different things that are wrapping up how this season is going to be."
Aamodt said the mild start to winter followed by very cold temperatures affected fruit budding. Then, the early spring caused some types of trees to bloom sooner than usual.
"We're basically seven to 14 days early on some varieties," Aamodt said.
Minnesota has also seen a very hot and dry summer. A large portion of the state is currently under "exceptional" or "extreme" drought conditions, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
"Some of the early apples, I would say, are a little bit below-average size because they need that moisture to grow," Aamodt said.
He said a few varieties may also have limited availability this year.
"I know that First Kiss is an apple that throughout the state of Minnesota is going to be down. I would guess the First Kiss is going to be down 50%," Aamodt explained.
He said the status of the overall crop will be largely based on where you are in the state. He noted many of the varieties at their farm, including the fan-favorite Honeycrisp, have bounced back with recent rain.
"We've been really fortunate to have some of those small popcorn storms come up and give us moisture; even if it's a quarter-inch, it helps," Aamodt said. "The minute it rains, you can almost hear them growing."
Aamodt's Apple Farm planted 350 new SweeTango trees this year. Aamodt said those young trees were among their biggest concerns with the drought.
"We hand-watered them, meaning a tank on a trailer on a tractor," Aamodt said. "We watered those about three or four times, so it took about 1,000 gallons per time to water them. We didn't want them to get stunted. We wanted them to have a good first growing season in the orchard."
He noted the early start to the apple-picking season doesn't necessarily mean the season will end early. He said the weather this fall and how busy the orchard gets with people picking apples will determine how late the season will run.
Aamodt's opened for the season on Aug. 1. Pick-your-own apples will run seven days a week through Labor Day, then Monday through Friday after Labor Day, with other activities available on the weekends. Click here for more information.
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