The combination of an early yet fast-falling spring bloom, good pollination and then good fruit set means that the top and stone fruit harvest is likely to be both plentiful and early this year.
However, growers are keeping their cards close to their chest at this stage as any extreme weather - from a May frost attack, continued dry weather and summer downpours - all have the potential to damage the fruit and affect the harvest.
FAST fruit specialist Don Vaughan told Grower: "We had a good winter chill resulting in very high numbers of blooms. With this explosion, pollination has been rapid. Fruitlet pollination has been early in the higher temperatures and it looks like a heavy set on all varieties. The weather coincided with the bloom period. So yes, it looks very promising."
But he added: "One worry is that we are not yet out of the frost period. We still have another two to three weeks. "
English Apples and Pears chief executive Adrian Barlow said: "Its early days but I would be surprised if we are not a fortnight ahead of last year. Fruit set so far looks to be very good."
"The blossom has been two to three weeks ahead of normal and very heavy, and pollination has been good as the warmer temperatures resulted in good insect activity."
"What we are worried about at the moment is the potential for a late frost, which could at the least damage the skin of the fruit and cause it to be outgraded. We also desperately need rain or it's highly likely that we will get fall-off fruit - 'June drop'."
WHAT THE GROWERS SAY
"Lots of things could still go wrong but the bloom did look exceptional this year. It came, set and went quickly. If the bloom hangs on the tree for a long period - say seven to ten days - the tree is making its mind up about whether to keep the fruit. But if it comes and goes within a few days we know it's setting well. The rosette leaves near the bloom cluster are dark green which means they are working to keep our crop. So it looks to be a good season. The next full moon, when there is a greater risk of frost, is around 20 May but hopefully that is late enough not to see a vast difference in day and night temperatures."
Craig Rook, farms manager, FW Mansfield
"It still early days - we don't want to count eggs before they've hatched because we could still have a frost. And a lot of top fruit is not irrigated so that could have a potential affect. But yes, the weather conditions have been conducive to good fruit set. And the top fruit crop looks set to be relatively early."
Robert Pascall, fruit grower, Kent