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Maine's apple season is shaping up to be hit-or-miss

In this Friday, Aug. 30, 2013, photo, Chris Sprague checks on Macintosh apples growing at the Rocky Ridge Orchard, in Bowdoin, Maine. "It's a bumper crop this year," said Sprague. New England's apple crop is expected to be just below its five-year average for 2013, but much better than the 2012 season, challenged by late frost and hail.
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP
In this Friday, Aug. 30, 2013, photo, Chris Sprague checks on Macintosh apples growing at the Rocky Ridge Orchard, in Bowdoin, Maine. "It's a bumper crop this year," said Sprague. New England's apple crop is expected to be just below its five-year average for 2013, but much better than the 2012 season, challenged by late frost and hail. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

A period of extreme cold back in February and late-season frosts in May have not been kind to Maine's peaches and apples.

Renae Moran, a fruit tree specialist for the University of Maine's Cooperative Extension, estimates that the frosts in May knocked out about half of the state's apple crop.

"What I'm seeing is a high variation in yield from orchard to orchard," she said. "Some have a full crop. Some have a ripe crop. And a few actually don't have any apples."

Cold temperatures hit apple blossoms around the Northeast at full bloom, though Moran said most Maine orchards fared better than those in New Hampshire or Vermont. Orchards at higher elevations should have a better yield compared to those in lower lying fields, Moran said.

Apples are relatively resilient to moisture, and Moran said the crop should tolerate this summer's abnormally wet conditions. Still, she said it's too soon to tell whether the rain will have an impact on the apples' quality or taste.

But Maine's peach farmers have fared far worse this year, because of a few days of extreme cold in February. Moran grows more than 30 varieties of peaches at Highmoor Farm in Monmouth and was able to pick just 10 this year.

"This has not been one of my favorite growing seasons," she said. "It's probably toward the bottom, because of the winter freeze killing our peaches and cherries, and then we had the freeze at bloom, which took out about half the apples.

Peaches are difficult to grow in Maine, and the crop is prone to partial or complete loss about every other year or so, Moran said.

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