Growing Apples crop nutrition advice

Everything you need to know about apples fertilization, best practice, suitable products, field trials and more

Advice for growing Apples (Malus Domestica)

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

  • Phosphorus and micronutrient deficiencies may appear in soil with high pH.

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

  • Water needs are approximately 9.5 to 12.5 acre-inches between bud break and leaf fall.

  • Calcium management is very important for the quality of the fruit and a combination of soil and foliar application of calcium is often needed.

Nutrient requirements

Estimated nutrient uptake (kg/t):

1st year9696728268
2nd year849612610452
3rd year14012022016858
(20 tons/acre)
MonthPhysiological stage N ((lbs/acre)P2O5 (lbs/acre)K2O (lbs/acre)
FebruaryDormancy 91318
MarchFlower initiation 131318
AprilFruit-set 131836
MayFruitlet development and bud initiation 181336
JuneFruit development & vegetative development 9936
JulyFruit development & vegetative development 4436
AugustBeginning of harvest 449
SeptemberEnd of harvest 940
OctoberEnd of harvest 900
Total application lbs/acre 8980187

Dynamic of nutrient uptake over a crop season in apples

Nutrient deficiencies

NitrogenIt is the most important mineral element in plant nutrition. It is a constituent of amino acids, proteins and nucleic acids and therefore is essential in growth, both in its cell division and elongation phase. It is part of the chlorophyll molecule and RUBISCO enzyme, both directly affecting photosynthesis and carbon fixation. Without an adequate supply of N, the tree takes too long to reach fruit bearing, and in the case of a tree already bearing, inadequate nitrogen limits shoot production for fruit production in the following year.
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.
PhosphorusThe main role of phosphorus is associated with energy production, 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 at times of root development and in flowering.
CalciumCalcium is essential for the formation of the plant structure and the cell wall. It is also at the center of the plant's defense mechanisms, which helps it detect and react against external factors. Physiological deficiencies of calcium may lead to poor fruit quality. For example, bitterpit.

Key aspects of apple crop

The apple tree is more resistant to cold than other species of seeds and bones 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 southern regions 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 southern and southeast exposures, high light intensity can produce vitreous fruits and high heats favor internal darkening, surface scalds, or sunburn. 

It is an undemanding crop in 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 approached primarily from the beginning of the growing season via the soil, taking advantage of the plant’s nutrient uptake activity and transpiration. The foliar contributions are only an aid to calcium management. 

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

  • Irrigation water can often be high in pH and levels of bicarbonates. Acidifying fertilizers like Nova Pekacid or Agrolution pHLow can be to reduce water pH, thereby managing bicarbonates while also ensuring adequate availability of nutrients like P and Ca.  

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

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