Apple cultivating in Estonia, particularly during 1963–1998.
Apple trees were the most numerous in 1939 census (2 200 500, in the present frontiers of Estonia), reaching very close again to this number in 1960s. In the first half of the 20th
century, the apple cultivating was located mostly in the South-Estonia: in Tartu, Viljandi, Pärnu, and Võru districts. After the World War II, most trees were planted into lately established gardens of summer cottages near the great industrial towns in the North-Estonia. Thus, by the 1984 census, almost one quarter of all the apple trees of Estonia were growing in the orchards of Tallinn, Harju and Rapla districts. 15% of the trees were located in the Virumaa (both West- and East-Virumaa), mainly near the towns Narva, Kohtla-Järve, Sillamäe and Rakvere. Thus, big part of apple trees concentrated then in the northern Estonia. Only after them, Viljandi and Tartu districts had in 1984 either 13% of trees and the Pärnumaa had 9%, 5% of apple trees were growing on the Saaremaa island. The rest of districts (Läänemaa, Järvamaa, Võrumaa, Valgamaa, Põlvamaa, Jõgevamaa) had approximately 3–4% everyone, and the Hiiumaa island – 1.6%.
The Estonian climate isn’t favourable for apple producing due to severe winters and sometimes night frosts in the spring. The 37-year period, discussed in this article, is divided into three shorter intervals. 1963–1968 were conspicuous due to especially frequent winter injuries (1962/63, 1965/66, 1967/68) causing four crop failures: in 1963, 1965, 1966, and 1968. Good crop was obtained only in two years. The next (21-year) period 1969–1989 was relatively good for apple producing. However, at least two extremely cold winters (1978/79 and 1986/87) had more or less seriously damaged apple tree stands in Estonia during this period. The average apple production per year (1969–1989) was 35 750 tons though some poor years occurred, the worst was 1988 with less than 10 000 t. The record pome fruit production of Estonia was in 1976 (85 705 t), following by 1978 (71 778 t) and 1989 (61 400 t). The other very good crop years were 1971, 1981, and 1983. But sharply biennal crop producing resulted. The period 1990–1999 had mostly poor crops, not more in average than in 1960s.
During the Soviet occupation of Estonia, many state farms planted apple orchards making 100–160 ha, in some cases up to 263 ha (Rõngu state farm 1979) or 210 ha (Lahmuse state farm in 1986). The best yielding orchards were located in the Tartumaa, for example in the Rõhu experimental farm: the productivity of orchards was between 10–35 t/ha, the record being 35.5 t/ha in 1978. The second good yielding state farm Vasula-Sootaga in the Tartumaa had the productivity over 10 t/ha only in 42% of years (the best 13 t/ha in 1970 and 1978). The Rõngu state farm in the Tartumaa had never reached the productivity 10 t/ha, the bests being in 1976 (8.2 t/ha) and in 1989 (8.9 t/ha). The next good yielding district, after Tartumaa, was Viljandimaa were the Polli Horticultural Institute, Lahmuse, Õisu and Uusna state farms situated. But the productivity of gardens seldom surpassed 10 t/ha.
In the state farms of other districts of Estonia, the most extensive damage was caused in the winters 1962/63, 1965/66, 1967/68, 1978/79, 1984/85 which killed 50–85% of trees in the Tõrva (Valga district), Kullaaru (West Virumaa), and Alliku (Järva district) state farms. As a consequence apple production decreased in these farms almost up to zero and orchards were uprooted.
Examining the winter damages it is urgent to locate commercial apple orchards under favourable microclimate conditions in Tartu and Viljandi districts, and in coastal region and in big islands. The Central, East-North and East-South Estonia are not appropriate for commercial apple producing. Not much are made for investigating which cultivars are suitable for planting in the hobbyist gardens of sorroundings of big industrial towns in North Estonia.
However attention was payd to producing apples in large state farms, even in the Soviet time the home and hobbyist gardens produced 80–85% of all apples. Now the enterprises (joint-stock companies) are less numerous and they produced much less apples than ten or twenty years ago. The whole apple production of Estonia in nineties did not meet the need of inhabitants. According to statistics, apples are imported into Estonia in quantities of about one quarter (1995) up to the amount of Estonian own production (1996) in poor crop year. The production plus import makes 12.6 kg (1996) up to 26.4 kg (1995) per capita consumption during the year.
The choice of cultivars have based mostly (51% in 1998) on cultivars bred in Estonia, for example ‘Karksi’, ‘Krameri Tuviõun’, ‘Põltsamaa Taliõun’, ‘Treboux Sämling’, ‘Suislepp’, and ‘Tellissaare’. The cultivars bred at the Polli Horticultural Institute constitute 21%: ‘Koit’, ‘Sidrunkollane Taliõun’, ‘Sügisdessert’, ‘Talvenauding’, and ‘Tiina’. The very winter hardy cultivars ‘Streifling Herbst’ (West European origin) and ‘Antonovka’ (Russia) had been in the List of recommended for growing in Estonia for the most longer period. Lately, three Russian cultivars ‘Orlovskij Sinap’, ‘Kulikovskoye’, and ‘Veteran’ were included into the “List”. The relative importance of Russian cultivars is now 16% and 13% the same one of the United States (plus 1 Canadian cultivar). One important cultivar from the Western Europe is ‘Liivi Kuldrenett’.