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Bitter Pit

Author: Esther McGinnis


  • Bitter pit causes dark lesions on the apple skin and just under the skin’s surface.
  • The lesions appear primarily in storage but may sometimes occur just before harvest.
  • The lesions may be bitter tasting.
  • ‘Cortland’ and ‘Honeycrisp’ are highly susceptible to bitter pit.

Figure 1. Bitter pit McGinnis
Figure 1.
  Bitter pit lesions initially look like light-green bruises on the surface of the fruit (Esther McGinnis, NDSU) 

Figure 2. Bitter pit McGinnis
Figure 2.
The lesions then become brown and slightly sunken (Esther McGinnis, NDSU)

Management and other important facts

  • Bitter pit is caused by the leaves out-competing the fruit for available calcium.
  • Avoid over-fertilizing because high levels of nitrogen and potassium may exacerbate the problem.
  • Maintain good soil moisture with supplemental irrigation during dry periods and apply mulch.
  • Calcium chloride sprays can be applied directly to the fruit but are not always effective.

This website was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant 14-SCBGP-ND-0038.
Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.

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