We have apple trees that have been dropping apples for the past couple weeks,...

Asked June 23, 2015, 3:54 PM EDT

We have apple trees that have been dropping apples for the past couple weeks, this seems to happen almost every year. Is this something normal or does it indicate a problem? Is there any recommendation for addressing this? We are picking them up as they fall. We estimate we are losing 60% or more of the apples on the tree. Thank you!

Hennepin County Minnesota

1 Response

Thank you for the question. Some apple varieties are more prone to early fruit drop than others so this could be one cause. This Michigan Extension publication http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/why_does_apple_fruit_drop_prematurely lists such apple varieties:

Apple variety tendency to pre-harvest drop:

Less prone: Akane, Empire, Gala, Gingergold, Goldrush, Fuji, Idared, Jonathan, Jonamac, Paulared, Pinova, Sabina

Intermediate: Blondee, Braeburn, Cameo, Cortland, Jonagold

More prone: Arlet (Swiss Gourmet), Autumn Gold, Early Golden, Gravenstein, Honeycrisp, Jerseymac, Lodi, Golden Delicious, Golden Supreme, Gravenstein, Hampshire, Liberty, Lodi, McIntosh, Princess, Pristine, Spartan, Red Delicious, Stayman, Zestar

I don't know what percentage of apple drop is considered normal, but some is normal especially in trees loaded with too many fruits. If at all possible, thin fruits to 6" apart on limbs when fruits are nickel-quarter sized.
Other than variety and normal fruit drop being reasons for your findings, premature apple fall is often related to disease of the leaves or an insect infestation of the fruit. Diseases such as Rust (orange-yellow spots on leaves) or apple scab (leaves often yellow and fall prematurely) can cause premature fruit drop. If the fruits are infested by codling moth larvae ("worms") they tend to drop prematurely. Check the inside of the fruit for any caterpillars or trails in the fruit indicating they have been there.
Here are two more links to publications that discuss premature apple drop:

Thank you for contacting Extension.