Apple Farming: Best Business Plan For Beginners
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Commercial apple farming is a very old business. Apple is a very common fruit and found throughout the world. It is very nutritious and very popular fruit.
Apples are available in in all parts around the globe. Apple trees are cultivated worldwide and are the most widely grown species in the genus Malus.
Apple tree originated in Central Asia, where it’s wild ancestor (Malus sieversii) is still found today. And apples actually have been grown for thousands of years in Asia and Europe and were brought to North America by European colonists.
Apple is a very important fruit in many countries. And it has religious and mythological significance in many cultures, including Norse, Greek and European Christian tradition.[ 1 ]
Apple trees are generally large in size if grown from seed. But today, commercial apple producers used to propagate apple cultivars by grafting onto rootstocks (which control the size of the resulting tree).
Today, there are numerous varieties/cultivars of apples available throughout the world. Each of these varieties has especial characteristics. Different varieties are bred for various tastes and uses including cooking, cider production or eating raw.
Apple is actually a deciduous tree, generally standing between 6 and 15 feet tall in commercial cultivation and up to 30 feet in the wild. When cultivated, the size, shape and branch density are determined by rootstock selection and trimming method.
Leaves of the apple trees are alternately arranged dark green-colored simple ovals with serrated margins and slightly downy undersides.
Today, apple is among the most popular fruits. Total worldwide production of apples in the year of 2018 was 86 million tones, with China accounting for nearly half of the total. Secondary apple producing countries are United States and Poland.
Table of Contents
Nutrition and Uses of Apples
All parts of the fruit (including skin, but not the seeds) are suitable for human consumption. The core, from stem to bottom, containing the seeds, is usually not eaten and is discarded.
These fruits can be consumed in many different ways: juice, raw in salads, baked in pies, cooked into sauces and spreads like apple butter, and other baked dishes. They are sometimes used as an ingredient in savory foods, such as sausage and stuffing.
Apple is a very nutritious fruit. A raw apple is about 14% carbohydrates, 86% water and negligible content of fat and protein. According to healthline , one medium apple (around 182 grams) offers the following nutrients:
- Carbs: 25 grams
- Calories: 95
- Fiber: 4 grams
- Potassium: 6% of the RDI (Reference Daily Intake)
- Vitamin C: 14% of the RDI
- Vitamin K: 5% of the RDI
In a word, apples are a good source of fiber and vitamins. They also contain polyphenols, which may have numerous health benefits.
Health Benefits of Apples
Consuming apples daily has many health benefits. You are probably familiar with the common English-language proverb “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. Here we are trying to describe about the top advantages of consuming apples.
- Apples are a very good source of fiber and vitamins. They also contain polyphenols, which may have numerous health benefits.
- Apples are good source of fiber, so they are filling. You will be hungry less. And thus apples may aid weight loss.
- Consuming apples regularly promote hearth health in several ways. Apples are high in soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol.
- Eating apples is linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. This is possibly due to their polyphenol antioxidant content.
- Apples contain pectin, a type of fiber that acts as a prebiotic. This means it feeds the good bacteria in your gut.
- Apples have several naturally occurring compounds that may help fight cancer. Observational studies have linked them to a lower risk of cancer and death from cancer.
- Apples contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds that may help to regulate immune responses and protect against asthma.
- Consuming apples is also beneficial for promoting bone health, because it contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds.
- Apples contain compounds that may help protect your stomach lining from injury due to NSAID painkillers.
- According to animal studies, apple juice may help prevent the decline of neurotransmitters that are involved in memory.
- In a word, apple is very nutritious and safe for human health. You can consume apples daily.
Advantages of Apple Farming Business
Commercial apple farming is a very old and popular business. It is a very common business in many countries.
There are numerous benefits/advantages of commercial apple farming business. Here we are trying to describe about the top advantages of commercial apple farming business.
- Commercial apple farming is a very old and popular business. Many people are already doing this business.
- If you are a beginner, you can learn more about apple farming from existing farmers.
- Commercial apple production is very profitable, and you will be able to make good profits from this business.
- You don’t have to worry about the future of this business. Because it is an old and established business.
- Apple trees are very hardy and grow easily, and it’s very easy to take care of them. You can easily take care of them, even if you are a beginner.
- Marketing apples is very easy. Because this fruit already has an established market demand and price. So, you don’t have to worry about marketing your products.
- Commercial apple farming is a profitable business. So, it can be a great employment source for the people. Especially for the unemployed educated people.
- Capital requirement in commercial apple farming business is relatively less. But you will get profits for many years.
- Apples are very nutritious and have numerous health benefits. You can enjoy fresh apples if you start your own apple production business.
How to Start Apple Farming Business
Apple trees are very strong and hardy and they generally require less caring, and caring the plants is very easy and simple. You can learn practically from an experienced farmer in your area before starting this business commercially.
You can take good care of the plants even if you are a beginner. Here we are trying to describe more information about starting and operating commercial apple farming business from planting, caring to harvesting and marketing.
You have to select a very good location for starting your apple farming business. Apple plants grow well in loamy soil which is rich in organic matter.
Good drainage system is a must, because apple plants can’t tolerate water logging. pH range of the soil should be between 5.5% and 6.5%.
Although, you can use your existing land if the land meet all the demands listed above.
Preparing the soil perfectly before planting is very important for growing apple plants. Do ploughing, cross ploughing of land and then level the land.
And then prepare the land in such way that water stagnation should not occurred in field. Because, apple plants can’t tolerate water logging.
You should add as much organic content as you can while preparing the soil. Adding organic content will help the plants to grow well and produce more.
Climate Requirements For Apple Farming
Apple plants can be grown in right climatic conditions. These plants can be grown at altitudes 1500 to 2700 meter above sea level.[ 2 ]
Temperature during the apple growing season should be around 21°C and 24°C. These trees require between 100 cm to 125 cm of annual rainfall (evenly spread throughout the year).
Too much of rainfall and fog near the fruit maturity period will result in poor fruit quality with improper color development of fruit and fungal spots on the fruit surface. Apple cultivation is not suitable where the high velocity of winds are expected.
Currently, there are numerous varieties/cultivars available to choose from. You can choose any variety which grows well in your area. Consult with some existing farmers for better recommendation.
Common and popular cultivars are Alice, Ambrosia, Ananasrenette, Arkansas Black, Aroma, Belle de Boskoop, Bramley, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Cox Pomona, Cripps Pink, Discovery, Egremont Russet, Fuji, Gala, Bloster, Golden Delicous, Goldrenette, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, James Grieve, Jonagold, Lobo, Mclntosh, Pacific Rose, Red Delicious, Shampion, Stark Delicious, SugarBee, Summerred, Tellissaare, Yellow Transparent etc.
Commercial propagation of apple plants is done by budding and tongue grafting methods. Purchase the planting material required for apple farming from the registered nurseries.
Apple plants are easily available in the areas where the plants grow. You can easily purchase from any of your nearest nurseries.
Today, many nurseries have online presence. So, you can order the plants online.
Apple plants can be planted at anytime. But it is recommended to plant the plants during January and February months.
Average number of plants in an area of one hectare may range from 200 to 1250. Although, stocking density depends on numerous factors.
Stocking density can vary depending on the planting system. 4 different types of planting density are implemented. Such as low, moderate, high and ultra high density.
Generally less than 300 plants per hectare in the less density type, 300-500 plants in moderate density, 500-1300 plants in high density, and more than 1300 plants per hectare in high density type.
Apple plants are very strong and hardy. They generally grow well in less caring and other management. Although, taking additional caring will help the plants to grow well and produce more. Here we are trying to describe more about the caring process in commercial apple farming business.
Providing the plants with adequate fertilizers is very important for good growth of the plants. Provide adequate organic fertilizers (such as farm yard manure) along with other chemical fertilizers.
The ratio of K, P, and N which is applied in an orchard of optimal fertility is 70:35:70 grams per year age of the tree. Use appropriate application of fertilizer for deficiency of boron, zinc, manganese and calcium.
Irrigation requirement in commercial apple farming is around 115 cm per annum which should be scheduled in 14 to 20 watering/irrigation.
Watering should be provided at an interval of 6 to 10 days during the summer season, and at an interval of 3-4 weeks during the winter season. And at least 8 irrigation are required during the critical period (April to August), after fruit set.
Weeds consume nutrients from the soil, and the plants suffer. So, timely and regular weeding is very important.
Inter-cropping is a great way to earn some extras. It also helps to minimize weed problem. Green manuring crops like bean and sunflower can be cultivated in the early years of apple planting in order to increase soil texture and nutrients of the soil.
Mulching helps to retain moisture into the soil. It will also help to reduce the growth of weeds. You can use organic materials as mulch.
Training & Pruning
For getting good growth of the plants and good production, timely training and pruning is very important. The apple plants are trained as per growth habit and vigor of the rootstocks.
The standard apple plants are trained on a modified central leader system to receive proper light. This improves fruit color and also minimizes the effect of heavy snowfall and hail.
Spindle bush system is best suitable for high-density apple planting under mid hill conditions.
Pests & Diseases
As we have mentioned above ‘apple trees are very strong and hardy’. And they are less susceptible to pests, diseases or other problems.
The main pests in apple farming are eriosoma lanigerum, quadraspidiotus perniciosus, thrips rhopalantennalis, pseudoulacaspis sp. etc.
And the main diseases found in apple farming are venturia, inaequilis, phytophthora cactorus, agrobacterium tumefaciens, sclerotium rolfsii, cankers, die-back diseases, etc. You can apply carbendazim, copper oxychloride, mancozeb and other fungicides for controlling the diseases.
Depending on the variety, the apple trees start bearing fruits from the 8th year. Apple productivity goes on increasing from the 8th year to 17th year, and afterward production remains constant up to 30 years.
Lifespan of the apple trees can be extended up to even 40 years depending upon the climatic conditions. Generally the fruits are harvested before they are fully ripe.
There are many tasks/activities to follow after harvesting apples. Post-harvesting tasks are pre-cooling, grading according to their size and weight, storage, packing and transporting. Do all these activities very carefully.
It’s not possible to tell the exact amount. Because exact number depends on numerous factors. On average, you can expect around 10-12 tonnes per hectare.
Marketing apples is very easy and simple. Apples have very good demand and value throughout the world. You will be able to easily sell your products in the local market.
These are the common steps and ways for starting and operating a successful apple farming business. Hope this guide has helped you! Good luck!
Frequently Asked Questions
People ask many questions about apple farming. Here we are listing the most common questions about this lucrative business, and trying to answer them. Hope you will find your answer. Don’t hesitate to ask us if you have more questions.
Is apple farming a profitable business?
Yes, commercial production of apple is a very profitable business. You can start this business for making profits.
How to start apple farming business?
Starting commercial apple production business is very easy and simple. You can start this business easily if you follow the steps mentioned below:
- First of all you have to select a very good location for your farm.
- Then prepare the soil by adding adequate amount of organic and chemical fertilizers.
- Choose the right apple variety.
- Purchase plants.
- Plant the small plants in your prepared soil.
- Try to control pests and diseases by using proper medicines.
- Try to take good care of the plants.
How profitable is apple farming?
Apple farming is a very profitable business. Although, it’s very tough for us to tell the exact amount. Please consult with any existing farmers in your area for having some ideas.
How long will it take to grow an apple?
Generally, apple trees need at least 8 hours of sunlight per day during the growing season. The dwarf apple tree will start bearing fruit 2-3 years after planting. And other standard size trees can take up to 8 years to bear fruit.
Is apple easy to grow?
Yes, growing apple is relatively easy and simple. But the key to successful apple farming is to pick the right spot. All the apple varieties do best in full sun and moist environment in fertile and well-drained soil.
Where do apples grow best?
Apple trees grow best in areas with full access to sun (at lease 6 hours of sunlight daily). These plants grow well in fertile, well-drained soil. Light to medium texured soils are best for apple farming which. Good moisture holding capacity is a plus for these plants.
Which states in India do apple farming?
Major apple producing states in India are Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Arunachal Pradesh etc.
In which season apple is grown in India?
Generally, most of the apples are harvested from September-October. The fruits generally become mature within 130-150 days after the full bloom stage depending upon the variety grown.
What is the best climate for apple trees?
Climates with cold winter, moderate summer and medium to high humidity is considered best for apple trees.
Commercial apple farming is very profitable. But it’s not possible to tell the exact amount. It’s possible to make around or up to $50,000 per acre per year.
How long do apple trees live?
Depends on numerous factors and it’s not possible to tell the exact number. Average lifespan of an apple tree can vary from 50 to 80 years.
How much water do apple trees need?
Generally, the apple trees will require around 20 inches of water during the growing season.
What soil does apple need?
Most of the apple trees grow best on organic content rich soil. These trees prefer well-drained, loam soils having a depth of 45 cm and a pH range of 5.5 to 6.5. It will be better if the soil become free from hard substances and water-logged conditions. Compact subsoil or soils with heavy clay is not good for apple trees.
Which apple variety is best?
The Red Delicious is considered as the best variety of apple.
How many kg of apples per tree?
Depends on numerous factors. A smallish bush apple tree may bear 50 kg, and a large standard tree can bear more than 250 kg fruits.
How many apple trees can you plant on 1 acre?
Exact number can vary from place to place. This density can vary from 450 trees per acre to 1,100 trees per acre.
Are apple trees high maintenance?
Yes, like many other fruit trees, the apple trees are also high-maintenance.
Do apples need fertilizer?
Yes, sure! The apple trees are heavy feeders and they require both organic and chemical fertilizers for better growth and production.
Do apple like sun or shade?
Yes, the apple trees like full sun to grow best.
Do apples like cow manure?
Yes, cow manure is good and safe for the apple trees.
Which color apple is best?
Green colored apple is considered best. Because, it is a better source of vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin K as compared to it’s counterpart. Green apples also contain more iron, potassium and protein.
Which apple is most tastiest?
Some of the best-tasting apple varieties are Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Fuji, Ambrosia, and Cox’s Orange Pippin.
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Golden Delicious Apples
Apples may be grown in many parts of the country and lend themselves well to part-time farming operations. The initial investment for apples can be high depending on the production method chosen, land preparation, and initial investment in the trees. A commercial orchard is expected to be productive for at least 20 years, so this investment will be spread over a longer period of time than many crops. Depending on the amount of land devoted to the orchard, production method, and tree size, equipment costs may be held to a minimum. If the orchard is a part of an existing agricultural operation, you may already have much of the needed equipment.
Apple production will require many hours of labor, depending on the size of the orchard. Land preparation and planting will require at least two people. During the summer months, the orchard will require mowing, multiple pesticide applications, and fruit thinning. Depending on the mix of varieties and orchard size, additional labor may be required at harvest time. Although you may be able to accomplish these tasks with family members and local part-time labor, use of hired labor may also be necessary.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service, more than 5,000 farms with almost 85,000 acres of apples are located in the northeastern United States. Pennsylvania produces 400 to 500 million pounds of apples per year and ranks fourth in the nation for apple production. The majority of the production is centered in the southcentral part of Pennsylvania (due in large part to the topography of the land), but apples can be found commercially throughout the Commonwealth.
Depending on the apple varieties produced (commonly referred to as "cultivars"), most apples are harvested and marketed from late August through October. If regular cold storage is used, the marketing season can be extended through March. If controlled-atmosphere (CA) storage is available, the marketing season may be extended through July. Apples may be sold directly to consumers (usually through a farmer's market or roadside stand), marketed wholesale to packers, or sold to processors.
Apples marketed wholesale are traditionally sold to a fruit packer or processor. Fruit packers grade and pack apples for the fresh market. Fresh-market apples typically yield a higher return than processed apples. Processors use apples to make apple sauce, apple juice, and a variety of other products. It is recommended that you explore marketing options prior to ordering the trees from the nursery so the cultivars that best fit meet expected demand.
Apples sold through a roadside stand need to be of the highest quality. This will ensure repeat customers from year to year. Roadside marketers generally sell a wide variety of cultivars so the marketing season is not interrupted. Roadside marketing is time consuming, but it can also be very financially rewarding. When direct marketing, you will also need a marketing plan for fruit that cannot be sold as first quality. These alternative markets may include selling apples at different price points and in bulk quantities or using them to make processed apple products like cider, dried apples, or apple butter. Selling processed apple products is a good way to help diversify your product mix and extend the marketing season for your apples. However, there are many regulations and risks involved with food processing activities. If you want to pursue this option, it is better in most situations for you to contract with someone who has the necessary facilities and experience to process your apples for you. For more on marketing, refer to "Fruit and Vegetable Marketing for Small-scale and Part-time Growers." For more on roadside marketing, refer to "Developing a Roadside Market."
The success of any orchard is directly related to planning and preparation. The ideal site for an orchard consists of rolling or sloping land to enhance air drainage during periods of spring frosts. The best site is south facing with a slope of between 4 and 8 percent because operating equipment on steeper slopes may be difficult. Sites with deep, well-drained soils are preferred because shallow, poorly drained soils cause root system problems. Consult a county soil map prior to site selection. Soil maps may be obtained at your county extension office or from USDA's Farm Service Agency.
Another consideration when choosing a site is irrigation. Regardless of the type of irrigation system used, locating the orchard close to a water source will simplify setting up the system and reduce operating expenses. For more information on overhead and drip irrigation for tree fruit production, consult "Irrigation for Fruit and Vegetable Production" and "Drip Irrigation for Vegetable Production."
The land should be prepared as if planting a traditional field crop. The soil should be plowed and leveled with a disk and harrow. Starting with an even orchard floor will reduce the possibility of standing water and make fruit harvesting and transportation easier. Establishing an orchard in well-prepared soil rather than established sod will also aid in keeping the tree rows and row middles free of broadleaf weeds.
Prior to planting trees, a soil fertility test and nematode survey are recommended. Penn State provides a soil testing service through the Agricultural Analytical Services Laboratory for a fee. You can contact the lab by going to its website or calling 814-863-0841. You will want to request a complete nutrient analysis plus organic matter. Nematode testing services are available from the Clemson University . The two tests may be taken at the same time, but the soil samples must be handled differently. Consult the instructions on both kits to ensure accurate results.
The results from the soil test provide recommendations for any soil amendments such as lime and/or fertilizer needed prior to orchard establishment. The best way to add soil amendments for an orchard is to incorporate them into the soil prior to planting trees. The nematode survey is critical before planting to determine if any treatments are needed to eliminate harmful nematodes. Left untreated, nematodes may damage the root system of the trees and can stunt or kill them before they bear fruit. This will result in uneven tree growth and delayed or decreased production.
Trees should be purchased from a reputable nursery to ensure they are true to variety and free of disease. Most nurseries also provide a guarantee of survivability; check for this guarantee before ordering trees. The nursery can also offer advice concerning tree and row spacing. In recent years due to a shortage of apple rootstocks, trees may need to be ordered two years in advance.
The size of the mature tree will depend on the cultivar and rootstock of the tree. The rootstock, however, is the dominant factor that controls tree size. Most commercial growers are now utilizing dwarf rootstocks because they are easier to prune and harvest. Another advantage of dwarf rootstocks is their earlier production. They usually produce fruit in the second or third season after planting as compared to five years for the larger trees. Recommended dwarf rootstocks include Malling 9 (M.9, which has many clones of varying vigor), Budagovsky 9 (B.9, known for its cold hardiness), and fire-blight-resistant rootstocks like Geneva 41 (G.41), Geneva 11 (G.11), and Geneva 935 (G.935). Trees planted on dwarfing rootstocks will need to be supported by a trellis or individual posts. Semi-dwarf rootstocks are still available, but they produce a larger tree that comes into bearing later. Some of these rootstocks will benefit from providing tree support, but others do not require it. In order of increasing size they are Malling 26 (M.26), Malling 7 (M.7), and Malling Merton 111 (MM.111). A third alternative is to utilize interstem trees, which have a vigorous rootstock with a dwarfing rootstock grafted onto it, followed by the cultivar. The result is a three-part tree that is slightly smaller than a semi-dwarf tree but does not normally need support. Interstem trees are, however, more expensive than the standard two-part tree.
The apple cultivars you choose to plant will depend largely on how you intend to market your fruit. Most apple growers who sell fruit directly to the consumer will need to choose five to six cultivars that spread their harvest out over a period of time (this also helps spread out the need for harvest labor). Direct retail marketers may also wish to consider specialty or niche markets. For example, there is a growing awareness of heirloom cultivars as a market alternative. Growers who sell their fruit through a packing house or to a processor may only want to plant two or three different cultivars. Recommended fresh-market cultivars for Pennsylvania include Empire, Fuji, Gala, Ginger Gold, Golden Delicious, Honeycrisp, McIntosh, and Red Delicious, with new varieties continuously being developed. It is best to approach the packing house first to see what cultivars they normally sell. The most common processing cultivars planted in Pennsylvania are Golden Delicious and York Imperial. Other cultivars that can be grown for processing include Granny Smith, Gravenstein, Idared, McIntosh, Northern Spy, and Rome Beauty. Not all of these cultivars can be grown in all areas of Pennsylvania. Consult your Penn State Extension county office to determine which cultivars are best suited for your area and if any cultivars are in higher demand for your region.
Certain cultivars of apples are resistant to apple scab. Apple scab is the most serious disease problem in producing apples in Pennsylvania. Using scab-resistant cultivars can reduce the amount of fungicides that need to be applied. Some of the cultivars that are resistant to apple scab include Crimson Crisp, Crimson Topaz, Enterprise, GoldRush, Liberty, and Redfree. People wishing to produce organic apples (which can be very challenging in a humid climate) should consider growing apple-scab-resistant cultivars. Consult your local extension office for additional scab-resistant cultivars.
A more thorough discussion of apple cultivars and rootstocks can be found in the Penn State Tree Fruit Production Guide .
Layout and Planting
Regardless of whether you are laying out an orchard on level or sloping land, care should be taken to make the rows as evenly spaced as possible. The distance between the rows should be the same throughout the orchard. Placing stakes in the rows prior to planting will help to ensure the distance between the rows is the same throughout. This should be strived for whether planting in straight rows or on a contour. The maximum size of the tree will determine the distance between the rows and the distance between the trees in the row. The number of trees required per acre for various tree spacings can be found in Table 1.
When planning the orchard, early blooming cultivars that are most susceptible to frost should be placed in areas with the best air drainage. Later blooming and ripening cultivars can be placed lower on hillsides or in areas more prone to frost. If possible, orchard rows should be laid out so they are oriented running north to south to maximize exposure to sunlight. If this is not possible due to slope consideration, position the rows on the contour to facilitate safe spraying and machinery operation.
Pollinizers and Pollination
To ensure adequate pollination in the spring, it is necessary to plant more than one cultivar in the orchard. Apple cultivars are self-unfruitful, which means they will not pollinate themselves and you need to plant at least two different cultivars with overlapping bloom periods. Some cultivars have nonviable pollen, so at least three different cultivars are required. Planting several cultivars will also ensure having fruit to market throughout the harvest season because they mature at different times.
Pollinizers can be placed as solid separate rows (but no more than two to three rows from a cultivar that is to be pollinated) or in the row with other cultivars. If the pollinizers are placed in the rows, use cultivars that look different so that the harvesters do not accidentally pick this fruit along with the main cultivar. Bees generally move down the row, not across rows, when pollinating. By placing pollinizers cultivars in the row, better pollination is possible. Your nursery can recommend cultivars that will pollinize other cultivars.
A large honey bee population is essential for complete pollination and fruit set. One hive per acre is recommended for maximum fruit production. If you do not have your own honey bees, you will need to contact a beekeeper to provide hives. Care must be taken with insecticides applied at flowering because they can adversely affect pollinating insect populations, especially honey bees. Honey production may provide an additional diversification opportunity for orchardists. More information on bees and honey production can be found in "Beekeeping."
In recent years many different insects have been recognized for their role as pollinators. For more information on solitary bees and wild pollinators, go to the Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium website .
In the United States, anyone desiring to purchase restricted-use pesticides is required to have a pesticide applicators license. Even some materials used in organic production now require a license. In Pennsylvania, the licensing procedure is handled by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Please check with your state regarding these requirements.
Because of the complexity of apple production and the large number of pests and diseases that attack both trees and fruit, this publication cannot cover all necessary production practices and procedures. For more information on the diseases and conditions affecting apples, consult the Penn State Tree Fruit Production Guide . This valuable guide describes appropriate cultural and chemical treatments for the control of insects, diseases, and weeds.
Once the fruit has set, thinning of the fruit is required to ensure large, marketable fruit and flowering ("return bloom") in the following year. Thinning may be accomplished chemically and/or by hand. The earlier thinning is completed, the larger the fruit will be at harvest and the better the return bloom for the following year. If chemical thinning is used, follow all label directions for rate and the timing of the applications. If the thinning is completed by hand, begin thinning no later than mid-June. This allows for a natural phenomenon called "June drop" to occur so less time will be required for hand thinning. June drop occurs approximately 3 to 4 weeks after bloom when a small percentage of the apples that did not begin to grow will naturally drop.
Nutritional requirements of apple trees vary through their lifetimes and are influenced by such factors as rootstock, crop load, soil type, and weather conditions. In addition to nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, apple trees need adequate levels of calcium, boron, copper, and zinc to maintain the health of the tree and produce quality fruit. After planting, soil tests and leaf analyses are recommended at least once every three years. A leaf analysis is the most accurate way to check if applied soil amendments are being used by the tree. Leaf analysis test kits can be purchased at your Penn State Extension county office or ordered online .
Pruning and Training
There are many different pruning and training systems used in apple production. Your choice of rootstock and tree spacing will have a large impact on the system you use. Common training systems used in Pennsylvania include the central leader system, vertical axe, tall spindle, and various forms of trellising. See Cookbook Guidelines for Apple Training Systems .
Regardless of the system you use, you will need to prune and train the trees annually beginning the year you plant the trees and continue for the life of the orchard. Most pruning is done during late winter before the trees leaf out in the spring. Some growers also prune trees during the summer to increase light penetration into the trees to improve fruit color.
Harvest and Storage
Whether apples are marketed fresh or processed, they are traditionally harvested by hand into large wooden or plastic bins that vary in size from 20 to 25 bushels each. Extreme care must be taken not to bruise or damage the fruit during the harvest process because this reduces quality and storability and will reduce the returns realized from the sale of the apples.
Even if some family labor is used for harvest, outside labor may be necessary to harvest the crop in a timely manner. If you use hired labor, you are required to follow all laws and regulations concerning hired labor. More information concerning hired labor can be found in the Penn State Tree Fruit Production Guide , " Starting or Diversifying an Agricultural Business," and "Agricultural Business Insurance."
There are two methods of storing apples. The first is regular cold storage, which involves refrigerating apples at 30 to 36°F. Water is traditionally used to increase humidity to slow loss of moisture from the apples. The second method used is controlled-atmosphere (CA) storage, which requires removing oxygen from a sealed, refrigerated room and adding carbon dioxide to slow the maturation process. Apples stored in CA storage can be held until June or July before use.
There is a plant growth regulator called SmartFresh® that can help to extend the storage life of the fruit. It works by delaying the development of ethylene, a naturally occurring plant hormone that speeds ripening. Shortly after harvest the fruit is "gassed" in an enclosed container for 24 hours. This can extend the storage life of the fruit for several months beyond what can normally be achieved through regular cold storage.
In the normal course of operations, farmers handle pesticides and other chemicals, may have manure to collect and spread, and use equipment to prepare fields and harvest crops. Any of these routine on-farm activities can be a potential source of surface water or groundwater pollution. Because of this possibility, you must understand the regulations to follow concerning the proper handling and application of chemicals and the disposal and transport of waste. Depending on the watershed where your farm is located, there may be additional environmental regulations regarding erosion control, pesticide leaching, and nutrient runoff. Contact your soil and water conservation district, extension office, zoning board, state departments of agriculture and environmental protection, and local governing authorities to determine what regulations may pertain to your operation.
Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices
Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Handling Practices (GHP) are voluntary programs that you may wish to consider for your operation. The idea behind these programs is to ensure a safer food system by reducing the chances for foodborne illnesses resulting from contaminated products reaching consumers. Also, several major food distribution chains are beginning to require GAP- and GHP-certified products from their producers. These programs set standards for worker hygiene, use of manure, and water supply quality.
These practices require an inspection from a designated third party and there are fees associated with the inspection. Prior to an inspection, you will need to develop and implement a food safety plan and designate someone in your operation to oversee this plan. You will need to have any water supply used by your workers or for crop irrigation and pesticide application checked at least twice each year. A checklist of the questions to be asked during the inspection can be found at www.ams.usda.gov/fv/gapghp.htm. For more information about GAP and GHP, contact your local extension office or your state's department of agriculture.
- Risk Management
You should carefully consider how to manage risk on your farm. First, you should insure your facilities and equipment. This may be accomplished by consulting your insurance agent or broker. It is especially important to have adequate levels of property, vehicle, and liability insurance. You will also need workers compensation insurance if you have any employees. You may also want to consider your needs for life and health insurance and whether or not you need coverage for business interruption or employee dishonesty. For more on agricultural business insurance, see "Agricultural Business Insurance."
Second, check to see if there are multi-peril crop insurance programs available for your farm enterprises. There are crop insurance programs designed to help farmers manage both yield risk and revenue shortfalls. Apple production involves large initial investments and can be very risky; weather-related crop losses are common and crop prices can be highly variable. Individual crop insurance policies for apples (if available in your county) or a Whole Farm Revenue Protection policy can help you reduce these risks. Coverage for apples is based on the actual production history (APH) of your operation; you can select between 50 and 75 percent of your APH yield to protect and you can insure your crop as either fresh market or processing. You may also want to consider the use of a separate hail insurance policy to better protect against this type of often very localized damage. Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) provides a risk management safety net for all commodities on your farm under one insurance policy. You can buy WFRP alone or with other buy-up level (additional) federal crop insurance policies. Coverage levels range from 50 to 85 percent of your expected revenue or whole farm historic average revenue (based on your 1040-F information), whichever is lower. For more information concerning crop insurance, contact a crop insurance agent or check the Penn State Extension website.
Finally, the USDA Farm Service Agency has a program called the Non-insured Assistance Program (NAP) that is designed to provide a minimal level of yield risk protection for producers of commercial agricultural products that don't have multi-peril crop insurance coverage. NAP is designed to reduce financial losses when natural disasters cause catastrophic reduction in production. NAP coverage is available through your local USDA Farm Service Agency office. The application fee for this program may be waived for eligible limited-resource farmers.
Included in this web page are links to four sample fresh-market apple budgets--one for land preparation, one for planting a medium-density orchard, one for planting a high-density orchard, and one for fresh market mature production. The budgets summarize the receipts, costs, and net returns at various stages of an apple enterprise. The sample budgets should help ensure that all costs and receipts are included in your calculations. Costs and returns are often difficult to estimate in budget preparation because they are numerous and variable. Therefore, you should think of these budgets as approximations and make appropriate adjustments in the "Your Estimate" column to reflect your specific production and resource situation. More information on the use of crop budgets can be found in " Budgeting for Agricultural Decision Making."
You can make changes to the interactive PDF budget files for this publication by inputting your own prices and quantities in the green outlined cells for any item. The cells outlined in red automatically calculate your revised totals based on the changes you made to the cells outlined in green. You will need to click on and add your own estimated price and quantity information to all of the green outlined cells to complete your customized budget. When you are done, you can print the budget using the green Print Form button at the bottom of the form. You can use the red Clear Form button to clear all the information from your budget when you are finished.
Sample Budget Worksheets
Initial resource requirements.
Land: 1 acre
- Land preparation: 27 hours
- Planting: 25 hours
- Production labor (scouting, thinning, pruning, spraying, and mowing harvest labor): 48 hours
- Equipment: $20,000 to $30,000
- Land preparation and planting: $12,00 to $13,000 per acre
- Production years: $4,000 to $5,000 per acre
- Tractor (45 horsepower minimum)
- Airblast orchard sprayer
- Herbicide sprayer
- Rotary mower
- Tillage equipment
- Containers (bulk bins, bushel crates, boxes)
- Pruning equipment
- Harvesting equipment
For More Information
Bradford, H., and L. Tukey. Dwarfed Fruit Trees for Orchard, Garden, and Home: With Special Reference to the Control of Tree Size and Fruiting in Commercial Fruit Production . Ithaca: Cornell University, 1978.
Dunn, J. W., J. W. Berry, L. F. Kime, R. M. Harsh, and J. K. Harper. "Developing a Roadside Farm Market." University Park: Penn State Extension, 2006.
Dunn, J. W., J. K. Harper, and L. F. Kime. "Fruit and Vegetable Marketing for Small-scale and Part-time Growers." University Park: Penn State Extension, 2009.
Ferree, D. C., and I. J. Warrington, eds. Apples: Botany, Production, and Uses. Cambridge, Mass.: CABI Publishing, 2003.
Harper, J. K., S. Cornelisse, and L. F. Kime. "Budgeting for Agricultural Decision Making." University Park: Penn State Extension, 2013.
Jackson, D., et al., eds. Temperate and Subtropical Fruit Production. 3rd ed. Cambridge, Mass.: CABI Publishing, 2011.
Kime, L. F., J. A. Adamik, E. E. Gantz, and J. K. Harper. " Agricultural Business Insurance." University Park: Penn State Extension, 2004.
Kime, L. F., S. A. Roth, and J. K. Harper. "Starting or Diversifying and Agricultural Business." University Park: Penn State Extension, 2004.
Krawczyk, G., ed. Penn State Tree Fruit Production Guide . University Park: Penn State Extension, 2016.
Lamont, W. J. Jr., J. K. Harper, A. R. Jarrett, M. D. Orzolek, R. M. Crassweller, K. Demchak, and G. L. Greaser. "Irrigation for Fruit and Vegetable Production." University Park: Penn State Extension, 2001.
Lamont, W. J. Jr., M. J. Orzolek, J. K. Harper, L. F. Kime, and A. R. Jarrett. "Drip Irrigation for Vegetable Production." University Park: Penn State Extension, 2012.
Salunkhe, D. K., ed., and Kadam, S. S. Handbook of Fruit Science and Technology: Production, Composition, Storage, and Processing (Food Science and Technology, No. 70) . New York: Marcel Dekker, 1995.
Schlabach, D. R. Backyard Fruit Production. Revised edition. Walnut Creek, Ohio: Carlisle Press, 2001.
Sommerville, W. Pruning and Training Fruit Trees (Practical Horticulture). Woburn, Mass.: Butterworth- Heinemann, 1997.
Many states have horticultural societies or fruit growers associations. Many of these may be found through the following sources.
American Society for Horticulture Science 1018 Duke Street Alexandria, VA 22314
International Fruit Tree Organization 16020 Swingley Ridge Rd., Suite 300 Chesterfield, MO 63017
North American Fruit Explorers 1716 Apples Road Chapin, IL 62628
State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania 697 Mountain Road Orrtanna, PA 17353
- Grower's Guide to Organic Apples
- ID-137: Total Quality Assurance: Apple Production: Best Management Practices
- Apples:Organic Production Guide
- University of Vermont Virtual Orchard
- Virtual Orchard
Prepared by Robert M. Crassweller, professor of horticulture; Lynn F. Kime, extension associate in agricultural economics; and Jayson K. Harper, professor of agricultural economics.
This publication was developed by the Small-scale and Part-time Farming Project at Penn State with support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Extension Service.
- Farm Management
- Production Economics
- Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education
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How to Start Apple Farming Business
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Do you have interest in farming? Do you want to start farming apples? This tutorial will help you understand that it doesn’t take more than patience, a good understanding of the apple trees’ lives to help you start up the wonderful world of the apple farming business.
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The apple is a powerful multibillion dollar industry with a $10 billion value as of 2005. The market is set to increase as the world slowly turns towards turning to healthier and greener foods.
The United States’ apple market has experienced a revival when the Green Revolution began, the beginning of the healthier foods campaign. Starting an apple farming business is basically good for people with real hard patience and some good money to borrow, or if you have the money, the apple farming business is a “slowly but surely” growing business where the first returns may take some time but the returns would last longer.
Apple Farming’s Business Clients
The primary clients of the apple business are the direct consumers. However, some apple companies prefer to associate with grocery companies or supermarkets. In the past, the direct consumer approach wasn’t as successful as those companies which associated with the big companies. However as the Green Revolution produced a side effect on the farming business which we call the “Organic Produce is Better” way, the companies which sold apples directly to consumers had an increase of sales. This was due to the belief of the public that what they buy directly from the farmers was fresh. Although this was misconstrued, it gave the direct sellers a chance to up their ante at surviving the business world.
Stores and supermarkets, because of the financial crisis, are now in dire straits to make ends meet. These were the original big consumers in the apple business. Now, as stores close, if an apple business sells exclusively to the stores and supermarkets, they could end up with less sales and big profit losses. Therefore it is advisable that if you start a business start small and sell it directly to the customers.
Startup Cost in the Apple Farming Business
Considering the steep drop in land prices, it may seem cheap to start the business. But consider that the business entails crop machines, tractors, workers, and such. You might want to budget wisely, as you need to do a balancing act to keep all of these factors intact. There are hidden costs too in the business. Consider the machines you need for separating the roots and twigs and for those cleaning the apples. You might also considering training your workers in basic apple farming. This may take some time. But time may both be your friend and enemy, as it takes a long time for the apples to grow, which could mean a delay of the return of investment. But it can be your friend as the whole time it takes for the business to have the return of investment is longer and better than other businesses.
- Rahul said on October 1, 2014 Starting an apple farm is a good idea as demand for juicy fruit is growing every year in india. In India apple farms are basically in Jammu kashmir.Himachal pradesh.and Utra khand. Apple needs minimum 700 hrs of chilling temperature. Chilling temperature is less than 10* C duting winters. But recently In Himachal pradesh a variety is developed which can be grown in lower hills also. mean apples which require less chilling period. So this variety can be grown in northern states of India which are under cold spell from December to february. This apple may not be so delicious as of high hills but will be apple with small size.
Apple farming is catching fancy with farmers if low hills in Punjab and Himachal pradesh.Hariman and Anna dorsiet r favourite in this low hill belt.Moreover u get fruits in the month of June when there is no fruit in high hills.
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- Shuaibu said on September 27, 2016 is a pleasure to be in farming
- Ugo Romanus said on February 14, 2018 It is indeed a good business as Apples cost much these day. I want to know if apples can grow in Nigeria? How do we get the seedlings to plant and where?
- Ugo Romanus said on February 14, 2018 Can Apples grow in Eastern Nigeria? How do we get the seedlings and where?
- Bongamandla said on February 21, 2020 Can apples grow in kzn, where would I get seedlings, and where?
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