Not far from where I have my own fruit trees, there is an organic fruit grower. I went to see him recently and we discussed the seasonal influences on this year’s crop. The cold late spring and the frequent night frosts have definitely had an effect on the cropping levels of most apple varieties. Pears seem to have done better. Plums and green gages have shown a reasonable crop. The true English apple varieties such as Bramley and Cox’s Orange Pippin have done badly. Any variety with Golden Delicious as one of the parents has done well. However most apples have shown a reduction in size, except where the frost thinned out the crop.
What really seems to have greatly increased this year is the level of brown rot infections in fruit. My organic farming friend has the most effective way of reducing the losses caused by brown rot to a minimum. He achieves this by maintaining a disciplined approach to orchard hygiene, regularly removing fruit that has dropped onto the ground in the orchard floor, as well as removing the fruit affected by brown rot but still hanging in the trees. I have seen with my own eyes the difference that this can make in a garden or orchard, not only this year in but previous years as well.
In Germany they make a special tool called the Apfelsammler (there is a video below showing the Apfelsammler in operation), which is fantastic for picking up rots off the ground. You don’t have to bend down, because the tool is rolled over the apple with brown rot, the wire frame opens automatically, and the apple is taken into the compartment. In this way, a chore is turned into an easy, pleasant and satisfying job. When the small wire drum is full, it is simply emptied and the apples can be disposed of, for example by digging a hole in the ground and burying them.
In summary, do not leave the affected fruit hanging in the trees or on the ground under the trees. Fruit with brown rot releases fungal spores that can infect trees and lead to an even worse situation next year!