Journal for 27th August 2010As bank holiday weekend arrives and we all hope for some decent weather, the new English Apple season is well underway
Discovery is now on display in all outlets and is the the only real English dessert option until Worcester Pearmain and Delbard Estivale arrives in September.
Scrumptious, a fairly new early dessert apple, and still in limited supply, may be found in Farm Shop outlets. If you see it, try it. Frank P Matthews, the supplier of Scrumptious best describes the variety. "When tasted by apple lovers, descriptions include: fragrant and honeyed, liquorice and wine, a bunch of cherries, fresh, aromatic, soft and delicate, crisp and sweet" Scrumptious parentage is a Starkspur Golden Delicious x Discovery.
Organic v Conventional
Another volatile article, this one ridiculing the 'righteous' protagonists of Organics by Susan Hill in Tuesday's Daily Mail, highlights the 'polarized' opinions of those in favour of Organic produce and those supporting Conventional production.
The English Apple Man finds these intransigent views detrimental to ALL producers of fresh produce. It seems the tabloid media continue to thrive on festering the argument between the opposing camps. The consumer can only end up 'confused'
After 50+ years spent in the apple industry, I believe the conventional production of apples & pears (and indeed all fruit & vegetables) has never been safer to the consumer & environment. The stringent controls of pesticide use have reduced consumer risk to, at worst a miniscule level; certainly very low on a 'risk assessment' of our daily lives! Indeed you are statistically more likely to suffer harm, even death, by falling out of bed!
The exposure to the environment is also tightly controlled and pollution by farmers negligible.
However the principles of Organic production have taught us much about the importance of maintaining soil fertility and by eliminating some pesticides we are able to observe the beneficial build up of predators, reducing, or in some cases eliminating, the need for a specific pesticide. This progress will continue!
Over the last 100 years we have seen the cycle of pests and controls evolve from no artificial chemical control measures, to 'heavy use' of broad spectrum pesticides in the post war years, before scientifically researched reduction allowing minimal use of the new safer target specific pesticides in our armoury today.
The 'historic' use of chemicals like DDT has given organic and environmental champions a strong argument in favour of nil pesticide use, but arguably DDT has done more good than harm if measured on a global scale. Think Mosquito, think Malaria!
Cox, still our main variety, was a commercial 'non starter' due to mildew until Sulphur sprays gained prominence in the 1920's.
There is no doubt that the evolution of chemical pesticides in the years before and after World War 2, each one 'knocking down' an emergent pest or disease, caused the surge of new problems. As one pest was controlled, so another (kept under control by a now defunct pest) emerged to test our resolve. During this century of evolution we have seen some nasty chemicals used. But to pretend today that our conventional production is unsafe for human consumption or the environment we live in, is I believe totally exagerated.
Equally, to cynically criticise the Organic movement as a 'rich mans preference' is also quite absurd.
While I do not believe we can feed the World by Organic production alone; sorry Prince Charles, I believe the choice should be available to all consumers, rich or poor and importantly, the ability to scientifically develop both mediums will benefit what is almost certainly the future, one depending on a 'hybrid' of the two regimes, indeed the lines drawn between Organic & Conventional production get ever closer, day by day.
For those who dismiss this vision, I suggest the final 'formula' will be one of very low chemical input, in apples & pears primarily for diseases like Scab & Mildew and pests will be controlled by biological sprays or careful management of predators.
30 years ago, I would have found it difficult to accept that 'red spider mite' (that tiny red mite) which can bronze leaves so badly that premature leaf fall can occur, would be controlled by using the orchard predatory mite, Typhlodromus pyri, popularly known as 'Typhs' but that is now the case!
The hybrid will be much nearer to the Organic principle, BUT NOT, the holistic formula laid down by the pioneers of Organic Farming.
Either way, I am fed up with this ongoing 'fight' between 'media' protagonists interested only in a 'headline'
As the new season develops, we look ahead to our main crop varieties. Next week The English Apple Man will be joining fellow growers for the Annual Gala Club, pre-season meeting. This brings together industry experts, who dispense valuable advice on harvest, storage and marketing standards.
Gala Club meetings are very much an industry only event, but my good friend Roger Worraker, 'doyen' of top fruit advisors tells me many growers 'sign on' to The EAM web site, so a reminder for any growers visiting The EAM over the weekend.
Gala Club is at Newmafruit Farms, Chartham Hatch, Nr. Canterbury, Kent on Wednesday 1st September at 5.30pm.
That is all for this week, in the next issue we will look forward to varieties appearing in our Supermarkets during September.
The English Apple Man