Australian apple and pear growers have been working to ensure that the heatwave that hit the southeast of the country last week will not affect the high quality of their produce, according to a report by Apple & Pear Australia (APAL).
Following picking, any heat-damaged produce is excluded from the top tiers during the grading process, ensuring that premium quality still delivers the eating experience consumers expect.
Apples and pears can be sunburnt in a similar way to people. While some damage is quite superficial, it can also penetrate more deeply and cause the fruit to go brown inside.
High temperatures are also capable of ‘cooking’ the fruit while still on the tree, causing it to soften.
Fortunately, this kind of damage has been minimal, according to APAL chief executive John Dollisson.
“Despite the extreme weather, we have only received reports of minimal heat damage to apples and pears from growers across Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and NSW,” Dollison said.
“Even where there may have been some sunburn or damage, consumers can still look forward to a season of high quality apples and pears because grading practices ensure only the best fruit reaches the market.”
APAL also emphasises that growers are well equipped to take action to minimise the extent of sun damage.
“Growers are well prepared and use the latest best management practices to reduce the damage – such as applying ‘sunscreens’ to the fruit,” said Jesse Reader, Technical Manager at APAL.
“The most effective way to protect apples and pears from sun damage is the installation of overhead misters that apply water to the crop and keep temperatures down via evaporative cooling.
“Other sun protection methods that are more widely used include installing overhead nets that provide shade, spraying a food grade clay-like sunscreen onto the fruit, and just ensuring the trees get enough water to reduce their heat stress.”