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Wet and cold weather batters Somerset's fruit growers too...

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: June 19, 2012

Somerset photographer Alain Lockyer captured this view of the flooded Levels earlier this week

Somerset photographer Alain Lockyer captured this view of the flooded Levels earlier this week

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The West’s fruit growers have taken a battering from the cold and wet, with pears and early cropping apples among the worst hit.

Cox’s Orange Pippins and Discovery are among the apple varieties which have been hit.

Pears, which are early bloomers, have also been badly hit.

In the South East some growers have lost up to 65 per cent, or even 90 per cent of their crop.

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Robin Small, a partner in Charlton Orchards, which grows apples, plums and pears at Creech St Michael, near Taunton, said on Sunday: “Most of the dessert varieties came into blossom in the worst of that stretch of bad weather when we did not get the pollination that we wanted because the bees were huddled in their hives.

“We are only talking about a matter of five to six days but that was enough to cause a problem.

“Some varieties also take longer for the pollen tube to grow after fertilisation and so in some cases where the bees had pollinated flowers the low temperatures at night were enough to kill off the pollen tube before it had grown to the right length. Cox’s were hit worst.

“We have some Discoverys but it won’t be a big crop.

“With other varieties that are naturally later flowering things seem to be all right, and we have got a crop of Bramleys because they flowered again.

“We have a light crop of plums overall, and a very light crop of pears.”

As apples are grown around the world Mr Small does not believe the cut in crop will lead to higher prices for shoppers. But he said: “Let’s say we won’t be going to Bermuda this year.”

Cider drinkers can breathe a sigh of relief. Cider apples bloom later. Cider expert and author Liz Copas, of Crewkerne, said: “I think most have flowered and set reasonably. Some may be affected but in the main they will be all right.

“It was a very good year last year and so it is not likely to be such a heavy crop this year. But it was a good autumn, and that is always good for making the buds.”

Dorset cider apple grower Rupert Best, who has 50 acres of orchards, said: “We are two or three weeks behind the dessert people. I have a feeling our earliest are suffering a bit on the whole the set has been very good.”

Last year, 20,000 tons of Braeburn were grown in Britain, but this year the projection is for 12,000 tons.

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