ALTO PASS, Ill. — For the most part, Illinois apple growers
enjoyed a good season, despite some weather conditions that were
A severe drought last year and drought in some apple-growing
regions of the state this year may have caused some concern, but the crop has
done well. One reason is the cool evening temperatures as the fruit was
“It was a good crop. I can’t complain,” said Wayne “Ren”
Sirles of Rendleman Orchards in Alto Pass.
The hot, dry conditions that stretched over much of the
summer and fall last year threatened to take a toll on this year’s crop, but
many growers were pleasantly surprised.
“A lot of people don’t realize that with all your fruit
except grapes, the bud is made the previous year for the next year’s crop,”
Sirles said. “So last year when we were trying to make buds for the 2013 crop we
were having that tremendous heat and drought. That did have some effect on this
year — not as bad as I thought it may be, but there is some effect.”
But cool temperatures at the right times this year gave the
fruit a boost, especially in color, according to Elizabeth Wahle, a University
of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.
“They’ve had enough cool nights to get pretty good color
this year, compared to last year when it was pretty hot,” she said. “We’ve had
some heat, but those cool nights really improved the color. We do want plenty of
sunlight for sizing, but it’s those cool nights that are going to give us that
nice, red color.
“I ran some numbers for my area (southwest Illinois, east of
St. Louis). Compared to the 30-year average, we were only 1 or 2 degrees lower.
I was surprised. We were fairly close to the 30-year average except in the
spring, and definitely later in the season we were cooler. But for apples that’s
good, because we want the color on the reds. We’re not complaining about the
cool temperatures when we’re talking about apple color.”
Last year was a boon economically for Illinois growers, as
weather problems severely affected the apple crop in Michigan and other Great
Lakes states. That resulted in higher prices for Illinois apples.
About 80 percent of Sirles’ apple crop is sold
“The wholesale market is a struggle,” he said. “That’s a
very, very sad thing in all farming, no matter what it is. Somebody has to have
some misfortune for another grower to do well. Everything is global.”
The overall harvest was late this year, according to Sirles.
Picking at the Union County orchard was scheduled to end the first week of
“We’re running about a week or so later, maybe up to 10
days,” he said. “We started very early varieties the last of August. Our apple
harvest in general now is getting earlier because of the newer varieties that
people want, such as Gala and Honeycrisp.”
He added that the relatively cool summer “helped the crop a
A swath of Illinois suffered a second year of drought,
affecting some apple producers, according to Wahle. But growers have responded
to the weather.
“This year we had a severe drought close to the Illinois
River running from Waterloo up to the Quincy area,” Wahle said. “It was running
very, very dry from June to now. We’re still running fairly dry. Those trees are
a little more stressed than others because they’ve had two years of drought in a
“But so far, they seem to be yielding well. They flowered
well enough that they had to thin them down. I think they’re managing it well by
A shaky start to the fruit season gave way to a successful
“When we started off, we had such an early spring, but it
has turned out to be a pretty good year,” Wahle said. “The peach crop was just
beautiful this year. Several growers thought this was one of their better peach
years. And the apple crop is very nice this year, as well.”