How Michigan apple growers are capitalizing on a "Bumper Crop"
Michigan is expecting an apple crop almost 2x last year's, driving growers to find new ways to make the most of it.
August's USApple Outlook projections were bullish on Michigan. With early varieties now coming off the tree and surging into storage rooms and pack houses across the state, strong forecasts are proving true, as the 2022 harvest is going to almost double that of 2021's.
While Michigan growers are thrilled by the opportunity to capitalize on this mammoth surplus, they also understand they’ll need a strategy to accommodate the unexpected volume and get the most value out of their yield.
The challenge: The majority of Michigan’s apple industry is made up of smaller, family-run farms, who rarely have the storage facilities required to deploy shelf life-extending, 1-MCP fogging treatments. As a result, smaller growers are required to operate under a much shorter sales timeline than larger growers with more resources. Instead of being able to hold onto their excess fruit and get better prices for it at retail, later in the season, they are often left little choice but to sell-off aging product to one of the state’s eight processing facilities at a marked-down rate. This challenge is so common that 60% of Michigan's apples end up in processing lines – more than any other apple growing region in the country.
The answer: Proactive growers who want to get the most profit out of their “bumper” apples are exploring new, innovative alternatives to traditional 1-MCP-based solutions. Leading this vertical is Hazel Technologies’ Hazel 100TM, a product capable "protecting" apples with 1-MCP treatment, without ever requiring a sealed room or “fog.”
“Hazel’s ‘fogless,’ 1-MCP comes in a small packet and is applied by just tossing one into the bin of apples. This new tech is a game-changer, that’s bringing 1-MCP treatments to smaller, leaner operations where 1-MCP was previously out of reach. Now, orchards of any size can get comparable efficacy of fumigating within a sealed room, without doing or having either,” says Eli Cannell, Hazel’s Midwest Sales Representative.
The breakthrough Hazel 100 product is differentiated by the fact that it begins working immediately after it’s added to the bin, where it then emits ethylene-blocking 1-MCP over an extended period of time. These benefits provide both flexibility and peace of mind to growers, as it allows them to treat the fruit immediately after picking, not after the storage room is full and fruit are days into the aging process. Also, the extended release means that Hazel100 keeps working while storage rooms are opened, closed and reshuffled.
Newer adopters, like Jeff Butler, Warehouse Supervisor at Watervliet, MI-based Watervliet Fruit Exchange weighs in, “With such a great harvest, our growers wanted to treat and store more apples than originally planned. With Hazel bin sachets, we were able to treat a room unsuitable for CA treatment. Frankly, as the applicator, it’s just easier to throw in a sachet and be done with it.”
Hazel is allowing Michigan farmers to treat their excess “bumper crop” product, and significantly extend the window in which they can store apples and coordinate with retailers to get their best possible price for their apples -- before having to consider sending them to processors.
After a disappointing 2021, 2022 is set to be very eventful and lucrative year for Michigan growers. And for those who are active in seeking out and implementing solutions that extend the quality of their excess crop, record packouts could be on the way.