Sunday, 17 June 2012


You can grow virtually anything in Brazil (apart apparently from grapefruit, to my chagrin). This includes apples ("maçãs")  though until the 1970s hardly anyone bothered, there was only about 100 hectares of commercial orchards in the 1960s. This is surprising given a) the number of German and Pomeranian immigrants, many of whom were farmers, and b) imports of apples at the time accounted for about 100 million US dollars. Following considerable government and state investment in the 70s there are now 37,000 ha under cultivation, with 3,450 growers, and 1,253 thousand tons of apples were picked in 2009/2010. This investment included the importation of guaranteed virus free material from the famous research station at East Malling, England, which alone increased productivity by 25-50%.

 Granny Smith apple

The commonest variety at the start was Golden Delicious and some Granny Smith, but these have been mainly replaced by Gala and Fuji, which make up 90% of production between them. In fact, it is often the redder types of these varieties, such as Royal Gala, Imperial Gala, Maxi Gala, Brookfield, Fuji Suprema, Fuji Seleta and Mishima, as these export better. Another development was increased use of "drawfing rootstocks". When you see an apple tree you are not seeing one tree but two, the bottom half from one variety, the top from another, joined together as seedlings. This allows you to get strong healthy trees (from the bottom part, the root stock and delicious apples, from the top). Another advantage of this is that if you choose the right rootstock, you can get dwarf trees, an idea developed at East Malling in the 1930s. Admittedly these have fewer apples per tree, but you can have a lot more trees per hectare, from roughly 600 to 2,500. This means more apples per hectare, and they are a lot easier to pick!

Fuji apples

Now, one peculiarity of apples is that they need a winter, or rather they need a period of cold, to induce the production of buds and flowers for next years crop. Gala and Fuji, for example, need more than 600 chilling hours (hours less than 7 C) to give a good crop. Even in the south of Brazil where there can be frosty nights, and even snow some days, this isn´t guaranteed, so sprays are used to mimic this as in parts of Europe. Commercially you also need to add bee hives to the orchard, as otherwise there simply won't be enough bees to pollinate the flowers! Of course, that does give you honey as a particularly delicious byproduct.

One emerging trend in Brazil is cider. This tends to be based on French rather than English techniques, but made much faster, without much maturing. Brazilian cider, like Brazilian wine, is made with extra sugar and can seem sweet to north European tastes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

All of this was new to me! Very interesting!