Bulmer's finds performance of new cider apple 'puzzling'

The patchy performance of the new Hastings cider apple variety is both disappointing and puzzling, Bulmer's area farms manager Ben Moss has admitted.

"It has been interesting, shall we say. It's not setting sufficient fruit on some sites, and there are some pretty pathetic Hastings trees here," he told around 300 growers at the cider maker's recent Orchard & Machinery Day at its Upper House Farm in Herefordshire.

In recent years Bulmers has urged contract growers to plant the variety, as well as using it on its own farms.

"We went back to the original trials data, which rated varieties 0-3 for cropping - Hastings scored 2.3," said Moss. "But since mass planting we haven't seen Hastings pulling up to what we expected it to do. There are many variables across different sites, and we have several theories."

East Malling Research is conducting a molecular analysis to establish the compatibility between Hastings and its pollinators, he explained.

"It's a balancing act between getting the right amount of growth without too much extension growth taking away from the fruit. The higher-cropping trees this season have been the weaker ones on growth," he added.

Hutchinsons agronomist Chris Cotton said that Hastings "could have a wet feet problem this year, but it's variable". Meanwhile Dabinett "has come back, but is still struggling a bit", while Harry Masters "hasn't done terribly well, and could be biennial".

While there has been some "patchy" scab, "it hasn't been a serious issue", he went on. "But there has been more mildew this year than last."

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