Apple Production in Manitoba



Apples are not native to the prairies. The plants were produced by breeding hardy material from northern areas with larger sized fruit from southern areas. There are a large number of cultivars that have been produced and can be grown in Manitoba many of them have been produced at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Research Station in Morden. Most cultivars are limited to hardiness zone 3.


Apples can be used in a wide range of products including pies, cakes, jams, juices, components of baked goods, and cider. Apples are low in fats and oils while rich in vitamin C.

Economics and Marketing

In the early 90's there was a steady increase in acreage planted with about 60 acres producing in 1993. Since then, the interest in apples has decreased and in 2005 there were only 25 acres bearing fruit. Prices remain stable for wholesale sales and at farmers markets. Most cultivars, although hardy, can be killed during the winter, as cold temperatures can kill the flower and fruit buds. Other problems such as sun scald and frost cracks can cause damage by allowing diseases to infect and kill the tree. This has resulted in the reduced apple acreages and threatens the commercial industry. Also, customers perceive the fruit as inferior to imported apples. In order to improve the market for local apple production, consumer education is needed.

Site Selection

Before deciding on a site, growers should consider factors such as soil, microclimate, availability of water and windbreaks.

The best soil for apple production should be fertile and well-drained. Poor growth has been observed on areas that are alkaline and low in elevation. Soil with a high lime content may cause lime induced iron chlorosis.

Level land is favoured because it is easier to cultivate and is less susceptible to water erosion. Windbreaks are essential to help reduce damage from strong prevailing winds.

It is recommended to locate the orchard near the house where a dugout or well can be used for irrigation.


See local nursery for Manitoba hardy apple trees.

Planting/Transplanting/ Plant Material

Planting should be done in early spring if conditions permit. The planting hole should be 60-70 cm square and 45 cm deep or big enough to contain the roots when they are spread out. Plant spacing varies greatly. However, with wide spacing the trees grow larger and provide better yields. Cultivars such as crab apples, apple crabs and apples are widely grown on the Prairies. There are numerous cultivars available, with more and more available each year.


Proper soil testing of the site is advisable and required fertilization should occur prior to planting. However, supplementary fertilization may be required if nutrient deficiencies occur or if site selection is less than ideal. As with any crop, a soil test will determine the current level of nutrients present and a recommendation for fruit crops can be obtained from the soil testing lab. Fertilization should not take place in late summer or early fall because the trees need to harden before winter. Cover crops and green manure may also be used in some orchards for organic matter to keep the soil fertile.

Weed Control

Clean cultivation is the most cost-efficient method during an orchard’s early years. It conserves moisture by killing weeds. Later, cover crops, and green manure may be considered. Grass has been a successful ground cover in established orchards.


Apples are subject to attack from a wide range of insects. There are a number of cultural and chemical controls available. Before deciding to spray, trees should be examined to determine what is causing the problem. Once the problem has been identified, growers should take larger samples to determine if the insects are present in sufficient number to warrant control. Trees need only to be sprayed when population numbers are above established economic thresholds. Following is a list of the many insects that feed on apple:

  • lecanium scale
  • cankerworms
  • tent caterpillars
  • tussock moths
  • webworms
  • pear sawfly
  • leafrollers
  • aphids
  • leafhoppers
  • tarnished plant bug
  • apple maggot
  • oystershell scale
  • scale crawlers
  • mites

Animals can also be a problem. Mice and rabbits will feed on the bark on the tree over winter causing severe damage which usually kills the tree.


Apples can be affected by a number of diseases/disorders which can result in unmarketable fruit or severely damage the tree ultimately killing it. This list is some of the more common diseases which affect apples.


  • most serious disease on the prairies
  • prune affected branches and destroy
  • antibiotics are used to fight the bacteria

Powdery Mildew

  • attacks the leaves
  • controlled by spraying at the first sign of infection

Apple Scab

  • affects leaves, blossoms, fruit
  • velvety-brown to olive spots can defoliate tree and result in unusable fruit
  • controlled by fungicides

Following is a list of other diseases which are known to attack apples. Chemical control is available for some.

  • bitter pit
  • cedar-Apple Rust
  • chemical injury
  • core browning
  • flesh browning
  • freezing injury
  • friction marking
  • heat injury
  • Jonathon spot
  • russet
  • scald
  • water core


Irrigation for commercial apple production is critical during the growing period which begins in May and peaks in July when the fruit is developing. Do not water between August and October in order to allow the trees to harden for the winter. It is recommended to provide the trees with a good watering after the leaves fall to prevent the trees from drying out in the winter. Trees are not surface feeders, therefore soak the ground under them thoroughly with each watering.

Pruning and Training


Pruning is an important consideration in apple orchard management because it enhances plant health. The removal of diseased, damaged and unproductive areas of the plant will help the trees support a higher yield of fruit and resist damage from prevailing winds. Pruning opens the canopy inside of the tree allowing for better airflow and more uniform ripening.


Training is necessary after one year of growth to shape and help develop the form of the plant. An untrained tree usually produces less fruit than trained trees. This is usually done through the use of trellises.


Allow apples to ripen on the trees before picking. To tell when an apple is ripe, check for changes in color and darkening of seeds.

The ideal conditions necessary for proper storage of apples are good ventilation, high humidity, and cool temperatures.

Further References

Please consult the Guide to Fruit Crop Production for further information on control practices and chemical recommendations.