SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A good home apple orchard should have a variety for eating, cooking, pickling and jelly apples.

That was the advice from a 1924 paper by A.L. Ford for the South Dakota Extension.

People may not have their own apple orchards in 2022 but they do buy them for eating and baking.

In 2020, Rhoda Burrows, a professor and South Dakota State University Extension Horticulture Specialist wrote that as of 2017, the state had 252 acres of apple trees on 80 farms. Burrows cited data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Most of the orchards in South Dakota use an irrigation system, especially for the young trees. Many of the apple trees are semi-dwarf trees, Burrows said in KELOLAND interview.

Semi-dwarf trees are not as tall as traditional apple trees, but they do provide more of an “old fashioned” feel than dwarf apple trees, Burrows said.

Semi-dwarf trees also have another important feature, said Grace Kopman who owns Prairie Blush Orchard in rural Lake Norden with her husband Kevin.

“The semi-dwarf do better because their roots go down (farther),” Kopman said. “Dwarf trees have a shallower root system.”

The deeper root system was important this past summer, Kopman said. “It’s been very dry here.”

Semi-dwarf apple trees “are a little bit more resilient to both drought and the cold,” Burrows said.

Kopman said their orchard needed to be watered throughout the summer. But there were some timely rains, she said.

“Apples naturally do better when we get rain,” Kopman said.

This fall’s apple harvest will be better than what they anticipated, Kopman said.

One benefit of drier weather was fewer bugs, she said.

All kinds of bugs like apple trees, Kopman said. Keeping trees safe from bugs, deer and other animals is a chore because “everything likes apple trees,” Koopman said.

The summer also included days where the temperature reached the upper 90s and 100s across most of the state.

“That can cause sun scald on apples,” Burrows said.

Sun scald creates yellow or flushed areas on the apple.

“One should always remember that we are living in a country of severe dry winters,” Ford said of northwest South Dakota in his 1924 paper.

“We had such a strange winter,” Burrows said. It warmed up and then got cold only to warm up again.

“Trees can lose their heartiness (HARDINESS)” in those conditions, Burrows said.

Burrows said she isn’t aware of any severe damage to orchards this season. There have been reports of some damage from a late frost in the spring.

“I haven’t heard much about the (eastern side),” Burrows said.

Kopman said they chose 19 varieties of apples with the soil conditions, disease resistance and weather in mind.

For example, the Honeycrisp is a good fit for their orchard. “They actually need cold weather for the crisp,” Kopman said.

Most Honeycrisp apples in a store are grown in warmer climates, Kopman said. They don’t have the depth of crisp that a Honeycrisp grown in a local orchard does, she said.

“Most of our orchards are planting known varieties,” Burrows said.

“It’s quite of an investment,” Burrows said of starting an orchard. Trees can take three to four years or longer to produce fruit, she said.

Kopman said they lose some trees each year to the weather or other factors. But overall, “each year we have more apples,” she said.

They first planted in 2010 and got their first apples in 2013.

Burrows wrote in 2020 that her research on USDA data showed “that apple acreage has been uneven over the years, though it appears to be on a trend to increase.”

Acreage may not tell the full story of how many apples are grown in the state, Burrows said in her paper.

Burrows cited row space that varies from each farm and that newer orchard systems require less land.

The apple orchard season usually starts in mid-August and runs until late October.

Prairie Blush has about 500 trees that produce fruit throughout the season. The orchard has state fair apples available now, but the orchard is open by appointment only until after Labor Day.

The orchard has a limited amount of apples now, and it doesn’t want to disappoint customers by having open hours and no apples, Kopman said.