Here in Maine we have about 3' of snow on the ground topped by 1/2" of ice.  We 
have bloom usually towards the end of May.  Your are right about the chemical 
input expenses.  They just spiral upwards.  The best we can do is to do a good 
job of soil and leaf analysis and only use what is required.  For pest and 
disease control we do IPM.  It's the best we can manage.  Dwarf trees help.  In 
my opinion organic is a poor choice for us.  Too many trips spraying (30 or 
more) and too much material(especially sulfur, which can't be good for the 
soil).  Our primary variety is McIntosh which is susceptible to apple scab.  
Thankfully, we don't need to apply much Nitrogen.  Often foliar will do.  
Smartfresh has made a big difference for us.  There seems to be an improving 
market and a sense of optimism that I have not experienced in many years.  Our 
labor is mostly H-2A (Jamacian) and is experienced, skilled and reliable but 
very expensive.  We had our best crop in several years in 2007 but can only 
hope for a repeat in 2008.

Art Kelly
  From: Con.Traas 
  To: Apple-Crop 
  Sent: Thursday, February 14, 2008 10:51 AM
  Subject: Apple-Crop: Spring 2008

  Hello all,

  We are experiencing a lovely warm spell for this time of the year, and St. 
Valentine's Day. Although warm, the trees are not so advanced as they were a 
few years ago, when the first Victoria plum trees started flowering at this 
time. So, at the moment it looks as though (assuming the weather does not 
remain warm for too long) we will have an early spring, but not one for the 
record books, which is a relief, as we have often had damaging frosts in early 
May, which is still a long way off.

  On our own farm we still have apples in store, and thanks to the Smartfresh 
treatment, they are really excellent. In fact, they seem to stay that fresh 
that I need to add far fewer high-acid apples to my juice to get a nice balance 
between sweetness and acidity. My only problem is to figure out what to do with 
the high acid apples.

  In general growers were happy with apple demand this year, but are very 
concerned about the rising costs of fertiliser (linked to oil prices it seems), 
and agrochemicals. However, labour is still the number one cost, and it looks 
likely to remain that way. At least in Ireland it is possible to get labour, 
whereas in the UK and Holland, it can be very difficult.

  I would be interested to hear what prospects are like in other parts of the 
World, and how the spring is shaping up. Right now I've got to go out and do a 
bit of work.

  Con Traas



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