Growing Apples
crop nutrition advice

Everything you need to know about apple fertilisation, best practice, suitable products, field trials and more.

Advice for growing apples (Malus domestica)

  • Apple performs better in soils with a pH between 6 and 7.

  • In soils with high pH (above 8) deficiency in phosphorus, mainly, but also other micronutrients may appear.

  • In soils with a high content of active limestone, there could be problems with the absorption of microelements such as iron.

  • Plants are very sensitive to soil salts (maximum salinity of 2-3 mS/cm) and exchangeable sodium.

  • Apple needs between 600-800 mm/ha of water between bud break and leaf fall.

  • Calcium management is very important for the quality of the harvest, so it’s important to have a soil and foliar strategy.

Nutrient requirements

Estimated nutrient uptake (kg/t):

1st year4848366348
2nd year42486394.536
3rd year70
(45 tones)
MonthPhysiological stage N (kg/ha)P2O5 (kg/ha)K2O (kg/ha)
FebruaryDormancy 101520
MarchFlower initiation 151520
AprilFruit-set 15
MayFruitlet development and bud initiation 201540
JuneFruit development & vegetative development 101040
JulyFruit development & vegetative development 5540
AugustBeginning of harvest 5510
SeptemberEnd of harvest 105
OctoberEnd of harvest 10
Total application10090210

Dynamic of nutrient uptake over a crop season in apples

Nutrient deficiencies

NitrogenNitrogen is the most important mineral element in plant nutrition. It is a constituent of amino acids, proteins, and nucleic acids and therefore is essential for growth, both in the cell division and elongation phase. It is part of the chlorophyll molecule, directly affecting photosynthesis since it is part of the rubisco enzyme, and is fundamental in the cycle of carbon dioxide fixation by the leaf. Without an adequate supply of N, crops take too long to reach a development that makes it productive and, in the case of a tree in production, it does not achieve an agile renewal of the fruit wood for the following season.
PotassiumPotassium's main role is directly related to quality and production. Increased potassium levels improve the quality and quantity of the crop. The main roles of potassium are; protein synthesis, photosynthetic processes, and sugar transport from leaves to fruits.
PhosphorousThe main role of phosphorus is structural, forming part of ATP. These compounds store the energy from photosynthesis and release it at specific sites in the plant where it is required. They are essential in all processes in which there is active cell division, such as at times of root development and in flowering.
CalciumCalcium is essential for the formation of the plant structure and the cell wall. It is important for the proper functioning of absorption mechanisms, as well as to prevent the escape of elements outside the cells. It is also at the centre of the plant's defence mechanisms, which helps it detect and react against external factors.

Key aspects of apple crop

The apple tree is more resistant to cold than other species of pomes such as the pear tree. Also, it does not need as much heat and light to ripen and the apple tree prefers humid climates to dry ones. Although the flowers are sensitive to late spring frosts, the apple tree supports temperatures below -10ºC, without affecting its bark, although below -15ºC some flower buds may be lost.

The main limitation for the cultivation of apple trees in the northernmost regions, like Kashmir, Ladakh, Jammu, Himachal, Uttarakhand and parts of Arunachal, is the requirement of cold hours, since although there are varieties with low requirements (around 500 cold hours) most of the most productive varieties need more than 1500 cold hours).

In northernmost and northeast exposures, high light intensity can produce vitreous fruits and high heat favours internal darkening, surface scalds, or sunburn.

It is an undemanding crop on the soil, with a shallow root system, although it prefers deep and light clay soils, it does well in heavy or shallow soils.


Here are some frequently asked questions we received from farmers regarding growing apples.

  • Calcium management must be from the beginning of the cycle via the soil, taking advantage of the plant’s activity and transpiration. The foliar contributions are only an aid to the calcium management.

  • The K/N ratio is more important than the amount of nitrogen, and it must be very high two months before harvest.

  • These are very important in the regulation of the harvest, consult the technician in your area.

  • The pH that we look for is around 6.5, but we must know that in soils it is difficult to modify this. ICL has very powerful products to modify the pH close to the roots.

  • Pruning work during winter should be aimed at regulating the amount of fruit and the development of the tree.

  • During the sprouting in spring the plant does not have enough foliar mass to develop its organs, so a postharvest fertiliser ensures reserves that will make sprouting more balanced in spring.

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