Entries top former quality levels

The previous exceptionally high quality standard of entries for the National Fruit Show was surpassed at the 75th anniversary event, held on 15-16 October at the Kent County Showground at Detling, near Maidstone.

Such was the generally immaculate appearance of the 149 entries from 53 firms that the judges were hard-pressed to separate the contenders for the top prizes.

Highland Investment Company (HIC) of Bridge, near Canterbury, almost repeated its 2007 clean sweep by entering the best culinary apples (including Bramleys) and pears. That triumph was prevented by Alan Firmin of Linton, near Maidstone, whose entry for the 65-70mm Cox class won the show's top marks, 99 out of 100. It won the Roderic Sarson Memorial Trophy for the best all-round apple exhibit, which went to HIC last year.

"The entry came from the same 10-year-old single-row orchard that won the East Kent Fruit Society's orchard-of-the-year competition," said Alan Firmin farms manager Brian Tompsett. "It was the first time we had won the Roderic Sarson trophy since I joined Alan Firmin nine years ago.

"Fruit from the same orchard, on an early south-facing site, launched the start of Tesco's Cox sales programme," he added. "This was the third year running the orchard has been used for this purpose."

Despite HIC's enviable performance in the show it has been an extremely difficult year weather-wise for the company. Farms manager Simon Foad explained that the severe early-April frosts wiped out HIC's cherries, plums and apricots, while frost-eye reduced the marketable yield of apples by about 40 per cent.

But a Berelex spray at fruitlet stage led to its pear yield being a record, despite all the fruitlets having black centres. The top pears came from a 2ha close-planted 43-year-old Conference orchard.

The best culinary apples (and Bramleys) were produced by a 1ha 25-year-old orchard on MM106 that yielded about 12 tonnes/acre (30 tonnes/ha). It was the only orchard not to be frosted "but I don't know why", admitted Foad.

The long-term stored Cox and Bramley classes, which received very good entries of 20 and 26 respectively, were the only ones in the show whose fruit was not specially selected. The Cox class was won by small East Sussex grower Peter Spencer of Brede, near Rye. It was awarded 89.25 points out of 100, with 52 out of 60 being given for suitability for long-term storage.

The Bramley class winner was Alan Firmin, whose entry received 87 points, including 48 out of 100 for suitability for long-term storage.

www.HorticultureWeek.co.uk/edibles for more fruit news.

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