The apple, more than „just“ a local product

„An apple a day keeps the doctor away“ already explains the importance of the apple. Convince yourself with our self-made video also with drone-recordings!

The lifecycle of an apple

You might think the lifecycle is fairly easy: “Baby tree getting bigger, growing apples and then the apple ends up in a grocery store.” However, that’s not all. Apples are the most famous fruits on earth; there are more than 30 different kinds of apples. For every region on the world, there is a type of apple that could be grown. Interestingly, the only thing needed for the process of growing an apple is water. Additionally, the environment as well as the economy play a significant role in the apple – from the beginning to the end. A farmer explained us the lifecycle of a local product.

The life cycle of an apple starts with buying an apple sapling from the tree nursey (Baumschule). National products are often more expensive in Switzerland, that’s why farmers often buy their saplings abroad. The tree should be planted either in late autumn or right before spring. If farmers decide to plant the trees in late autumn, the chance of mice eating the trees roots is much bigger than planting the tree in spring. Organic farmers often use fertilizer containing copper (Kupfer), which cannot be naturally absorbed by soil, to keep apples nice and mice far. Unfortunately, copper and other elements of “organic-fertilizer” are used often and cause damage. Therefore, it seems like a myth that organic products take better care to our environment than “non-organic farmers.” Additionally to mice, birds and specific insects love apples. However, the weather also damages the apples with hail, storm and freeze. While fertilizers almost fully protect the apples against insects, to net (einnetzen) the trees is recommended by our interviewed farmer. Unfortunately, there is no specific apple that is better protected against the different “destroyers”.

The harvest (Ernte) of certain sorts, like Amethist or Calmac, takes place in July; other sorts, for example Jazz or Braeburn, are harvested beginning of November. Often the farmers organize the harvest themselves, where usually the whole family lends a hand. During the process of harvesting, the apples are put into crates (Harasse), which are split into different categories:  

  • 1st Class Apples: look nice and sized perfectly for selling
  • 2nd Class Apples: look nice but are either too small or too big
  • Apple Cider: Damaged apples but still edible (essbar)
  • Fertilizer: Rotten or very damaged apples.

The question now arises: “How are apples  classified by size?” Grocery shops only buy “perfect sized apples” from farmers, which include apples of a calibre between 7 and 8 cm. Feedbacks from customers have shown that the most important thing of an apple is the taste, not the size.

Once the harvest is completed, the apples are stored in cooler rooms, making them last longer. A most preferred option is the so called “CA-Stock” (controlled athmosphere), where apples are stored with a specific gas, instead of oxygen, to keep the apples fresh and firm (knackig) for longer. Finally, grocery shops order the variety of apples depending on the customer demand. The huge fluctuations between apple kinds is unforeseeable; therefore the business is hard for the farmers, as they cannot change their plantation yearly. [1]

The whole interview with the farmer is to be found here: interview with Martin Keller (PDF).

In addition to the lifecycle of an apple, our project also aims to analyse the effects of apple production on the climate. For the necessary information we got in touch with the agricultural school (Strickhof [2]) in Lindau and did supplementary internet research [3].

Negative effects of apple planting

Apple production has not only positive but also negative effects on the climate. The production process itself has a negative impact on the climate through the use of machines, pesticides etc. On the other hand, the growing apple trees do photosynthesis (change CO2 into oxygen), which is extremely valuable for humans. The fact that weather extremes, such as frost and hail, are increasing is noticeable and change the climate for apple production. Due to this change, new investments have to be made in relation to weather protection. While some plantations are being irrigated (bewässert) during longer periods of drought, thermophilic (wärmeliebende) crops such as apricot trees can now be planted in these regions.

The ecological footprint of an apple depends on the variety. Depending on how long an apple can be kept and which measures are taken to extend its shelf life (Haltbarkeit), more or less greenhouse gases are released. If a lot of effort is being putting into the shelf life of an apple, it is quite possible that an imported apple emits fewer greenhouse gases. In today’s society, apples and other fruits are on demand; there is no “season” anymore. In order to not interrupt the supply of apples, they have to be stored and imported. However, for a better ecological footprint, the supply of apples should be limited to its season (in Switzerland). The production is highly professional as companies have to produce the apples required by consumers to meet their “gusto”. Positive changes for the climate would therefore only be possible, if the demand changes. [1] [2]

Our survey 

Costumers are the important people for farmers as they buy their products, that is also why it was important to obtain not only information from experts, but also opinions and views of the population on the subject “Growth of a local product”. For this reason, we started a survey in which we wanted to find out the apple varieties known to the population and additional questions about the cultivation and process of production. The survey was filled out by numerous people (92 respondents), especially people from Europe and India took part in it. Interestingly, many participants were aged between 0 and 20 years, however, the most experienced person was above 70 years! 

The survey has shown that Pink Lady and Gala belong to the most popular apple sorts. Those are followed by Boskoop and Breaburn. Most people assume that organic farmers use less fertilizer than conventional farmers, what is also reflected in their buying behaviour, as many of our survey participants have chosen organic products when buying food. The opinions about which farming methods are better were really split. The majority thinks that the past farming methods were better for the environment than todays. Another group, however, thinks that both past and present farming methods are good. In addition to the opinions about the different cultivation methods, the influences being responsible for the development of an apple were also asked. The most common answers were the weather, the climate and the influence of animals.

It was very exciting to conduct the survey and to receive answers from all over the world. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all participants for completing our survey!

The whole analysis of the survey is to be found here: survey about the apple, 13.01.2020 (PDF)


Tamara, Stefanie and Simone

Wetzikon, Switzerland
www.wkvw.ch, class TZ 19

Kerala’s partner team contribution: Junk Food in our daily life

Sources

[1] Interview with Martin Keller (www.luppmenhof.ch)
[2] Interview with Strickhof (www.strickhof.ch)
[3] Report „Gutes liegt nicht immer nah“ (www.beobachter.ch)

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The effect of bees and pollinating insects
Sustainable Food
How much energy is embedded in agricultural products?

☷ See the project teams here »
☵ Some words about the contributions »

3 thoughts on “The apple, more than „just“ a local product

  1. Hi,
    Thus was wonderfully written and well researched, especially the video ( the drone really made it more beautiful ) . This is a topic that is very interesting especially considering the whole ‘ an apple a day keeps the doctor away ‘ , and I really like the way you structured this.
    Best regards,
    Sivani
    Team Organic Farming

  2. Hi
    thanks for your interesting work!
    I like apples.
    We have 2 apple trees in the garden, which has been offering apples for 3 parties for years.
    To save energy, you could buy 1-2 boxes of apples at harvest time and put them in the cool cellar. Apples that can be stored well then last until February or March without special energy.
    best regards

  3. Your contribution is clearly structured. The effort you put into filming the apple orchard with a drone flight is very impressive. What is special about your article is of course the fact that you have a personal connection to the farm. This allowed you to convert your internal knowledge into a very informative article.
    It is impressive what all it takes so that crispy apples are always available all year round. We also think it’s great that you complete your article with a survey.
    Thank you for your contribution!

    Team Transportation

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