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Picking date recommendations for Bramley’s Seedling

Although it is important to harvest Bramley apples at the correct stage of maturity to achieve the required quality ex-store, there are no harvest maturity standards available. This is due partly to the gradual rate of change in parameters such as firmness, starch pattern and soluble solids (sugar) concentration that are normally used for judging when to harvest. However, there has been no systematic study of these and other parameters as potential maturity indicators for Bramley.

Generally picking date advice is based on fruit size and background colour and the rate of maturation of other varieties such as Cox. Since there are fewer constraints as regards sensory quality than with dessert apples, there is a tendency to pick Bramleys early to obtain green, firm fruit from store.

There is a tendency for increasingly earlier harvesting of Bramley prompted by concerns that fruit may be too large if left on the tree. Larger fruit have lower calcium levels and are less likely to store well. Picking dates for Bramley need to be considered in conjunction with mineral composition and storage conditions.

Early harvesting of Bramley apples that are critically low in calcium is likely to aggravate bitter pit development. However, delaying the harvesting of low calcium fruit will increase susceptibility to low temperature and senescent breakdown. From general experience fruit picked after the middle of September are less likely to provide premium quality after prolonged CA storage. However, out-turn quality is likely to be enhanced by adopting more stringent CA conditions and by categorising the storage potential of fruit on the basis of their mineral composition.  

Where these requirements are met there is likely to be no adverse response to harvesting early. Increasingly Bramley apples for long-term storage are harvested from late August onwards. The fact that early harvesting dramatically accentuates the development of superficial scald is of little consequence as long as fruit are treated after harvest with a chemical antioxidant such as diphenylamine (DPA) or with SmartFreshTM. [hyperlink] If, in the future, DPA was unavailable to treat Bramley apples, alternative strategies are in place to minimise scald development.

The success of strategies such as scrubbed low oxygen storage, low ethylene storage and SmartFreshTM application would depend critically on harvesting at the correct stage of maturity. Greatest benefits of SmartFreshTM application are achieved on fruit picked at the correct stage of maturity for long-term storage.

There is a need to develop harvest maturity indices for DPA-treated Bramley apples stored under various conditions currently recommended and to develop picking date criteria for minimising scald development in Bramley apples not treated with DPA and stored in scrubbed low oxygen and/or low ethylene storage.  The impact of harvest maturity on the processing quality of Bramley apples stored under a range of conditions also needs to be assessed.