Waiting and hoping
The time of decision
When April comes, apple producer Florian Tumler regularly remembers an old children’s song called “April, April, it does what it wants”. The experienced apple producer then looks up to heaven and sends his wish and probably the one of all apple producers in Val Venosta to the Lord: He prays that April’s arbitrary weather will keep within limits because the period between the end of March and the beginning of May is decisive for a good harvest in autumn. It’s the period of the apple blossom and the time when a lot can go wrong. And the most terrible thing is that apples producers can’t actively influence it. All they can do is hope that Val Venosta lives up to its reputation as a climatically predestined apple production area.
„The most important thing is that days are not too warm and nights not too cold during the apple blossom.“ If the days are too warm, the flowers bloom too fast so that the wind, the bees and other insects don’t have enough time for pollinating millions of blossoms. The apple blossom is a time of observation. Florian carefully studies the different vegetative stages before the final outbreak of full blossom: from the buds as „green tips“ to the so-called „tight cluster stage“ and to the „balloon stage“. He daily watches the weather report and every day passed is a good day. Then the day finally comes: The trees rely on their inner sensors and their buds open – unprotected and irreversible.
„That’s a moment of fascinating magic and great tension at the same time as the blossoms can no longer close or hide. They’re unprotected and hope for many pollen through wind and insects.“ The flowers' nectar attracts many insects. They swarm from flower to flower and take the pollen for pollinating with them – quasi as a collateral benefit. „There wouldn’t be any pollination without these helping insects and thus no Val Venosta apples.“
Florian’s brother Stefan is a beekeeper. After initial difficulties he now knows how to cope with these helping insects. „They follow their own business, which is collecting nectar. And they provide a valuable service for my brother’s apples trees, probably without knowing it. They work for free and a lot of overtime,“ smiles Stefan. And without any mileage allowance. Stefan’s honeybees would earn a lot with that as they can easily fly up to 3 km.
The right temperature is not only important for the apple blossom. It also has to be fine for the honeybees as they only like flying with temperatures of at least 10 degrees Celsius. So it may happen that all flowers are open but that you can’t see any bees as the temperatures are too low. „Just as ordered but not picked up. That’s bad“, affirms Florian. Florian’s apple orchards are situated in Covelano near Silandro on an altitude of more than 700 meters. Because Val Venosta’s apples are mountain apples. Temperatures near the freezing point aren’t unusual here in April. But Val Venosta is also known for its pleasant temperatures thanks to its east-west-extension. The sun shines the whole day on a cloudless day and the mountain chains don’t cast their shadow over the fertile valley bottom. That’s an advantage for Florian’s apple trees in blossom and for Stefan’s bees as well. „Blossoms can die from cold but Val Venosta’s apple producers are and have to be optimistic by nature.“
Val Venosta’s apple producers are well prepared: They can start frost irrigation in starry spring nights. The tender apple blossoms then become delicate frost flowers. „Even though frost irrigation always is a fascinating spectacle, the apple producers would be pleased if they could go without it.“ The visual pleasure of millions and billions white and pink blossoms, however, constitutes no risk. They turn Val Venosta into a fragrant sea of flowers that does not only fascinate honeybees. Florian and Stefan can tell you a thing or two about it, about hope and confidence – two characteristics that distinguish Val Venosta’s apple producers.