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Many Michigan growers plan to increase apple acreage

Contact: Denise Yockey
(800) 456-2753

(DeWitt, Mich.) – Many Michigan apple growers – bullish on the future of fruit production in the state – say they expect to increase their acreage over the next five years, according to the non-profit organization representing the state's apple industry.

Results of a survey conducted this winter by the Michigan Apple Committee reveal that 42 percent of participants believe they will expand their apple orchards in the near future. Another 40 percent believe their acreage will remain steady, while only 13 percent anticipate downsizing. About 4 percent are unsure about the future size of their orchard.

“Michigan apple growers have experienced solid economic and environmental conditions in recent years, and are investing in the future of apple production here,” said Denise Yockey, MAC executive director. “Agriculture is Michigan's second-largest industry, and typically half of America's ‘farm gate value' comes from fruits, vegetables and other so-called specialty crops.”

The survey results – released just ahead of blossom time in Michigan – also indicate growers are more focused on fresh market apples, or those sold in produce departments. While fresh market apple production demands perfection in the growing process, it is the most profitable for the state's growers and most likely to sustain Michigan orchard land. Foreign-grown apples – most notably China, which produces 53 percent of the world's apples – have stolen much of the U.S. apple juice market.

“It's most surprising to see that 53 percent of our growers see themselves increasing their focus on fresh apples,” Yockey said. “We have long played a vital role in the processed market – with about 60 percent of the apples grown here getting processed into another product.”

There are currently about 7.5 million apple trees in commercial production, covering some 37,000 acres throughout Michigan's Lower Peninsula. Despite a slight decline in Michigan apple acreage over the past few years, production has remained relatively steady because newer orchards are trending toward high-density plantings, upwards of 500 trees per acre.

“With high-density plantings, growers actually can have higher production with less land,” said Yockey. “High-density trees grow only 12 feet tall. They come into fruit sooner and are much easier to harvest and maintain. Michigan remains the third-largest apple producer in the nation, producing on average about 19 million bushels of apples per year over the past several years.”

There are 950 family-owned apple orchards in Michigan. About 99 percent are small family farmers, operating on 100 acres or less.

The Michigan Apple Committee is a grower-funded, nonprofit organization devoted to promotion, education and research activities to distinguish the Michigan apple and encourage its consumption by consumers in Michigan and around the world. For more information, visit MichiganApples.com.