Good Fruit Grower

January 2012

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Good Fruit Growers of the Year CHALLENGES lead to changes Plum pox virus set off a cascade of changes at Rice Fruit Company in Pennsylvania. By Richard Lehnert Company, identified plum pox as one of those challenges that led to a cascade of changes. In 1999, plum pox was found in peach orchards in I Adams County, the heart of the Pennsylvania fruit pro- duction area where Rice Fruit is located. The ensuing quarantine and eradication program resulted in the destruction of about three-fourths of the peaches in the county. Growers were indemnified, but they had to decide what to do with those peach sites that could not be planted to any stone fruit for several years. When the quarantine was lifted three years ago, most growers by then had chosen to plant apples. n recent years, Rice Fruit Company has responded to several challenges that have changed its operations significantly. David Rice, the president and eldest of the four Rice brothers who now manage Rice Fruit "It changed the nature David Rice is president of Rice Fruit Company and manager of packing and storage operations. of our operation," David said. Once a large peach packer, Rice Fruit now packs mostly apples. In a good year, the plant can pack 1.75 million bushels. The company now packs only 80,000 bushels of peaches—mostly pro- duced by brother Mark on 110 acres of new orchards he planted outside the quarantine zone in 2001, 2002, and 2003. They also grow and pack about 20,000 bushels of European and Asian pears. While peach growers were shifting to apples, all grow- ers were also shifting to the newer fresh-market varieties, including Gala, Fuji, and Honeycrisp. The need for more We grow organic Mandarins, Pluots and Kiwis on 16 acres. Every year we have trouble with cold weather in the springtime. Previously we had water protection only, but we put in our 1st Chinook Wind Machine this last summer and it really saved our bacon. This year we didn't lose anything. I can't say enough about the coverage we get. One neighbor's field was not protected and he lost all of his fruit. We protect 14 acres with one Chinook Wind Machine. The Chinook blade moves a lot of air, and it's economical. I use 4 gallons of diesel an hour, while another neighbor uses 13 to 16 gallons of propane an hour with a competitor's machine. On top of it all, the Hauffs are very good people to deal with. Clyde Litchfield and son-in-law James Day MARYSVILLE, CALIFORNIA 5 Increased Radius Coverage by 80-150 Feet with Same HP Draw 5 Air Flow Starts 14'' from Hub 5 Donier Swept Tip—Reduces Tip Drag 5 The Only Fan Blade with the "Trailing 1801 Presson Place • Yakima, WA 98903 509-248-0318 fax 509-248-0914 12 JANUARY 1, 2012 GOOD FRUIT GROWER Edge Wedge" (widens sector angle and increases air velocity) 5 Advanced Flow Design 5 Increased Horsepower 5 LESS FUEL CONSUMPTION 5 Quality Built, Affordable, Fast Payback "So far this year, damage is not as great as we had feared it might be." — David Rice capacity, plus the challenges of packing Honeycrisp, were responsible for more changes in the packing house. David Rice manages the packing and storage operation that serves its own orchards and those of about 40 growers. The plant and storages are all under one roof located in the town of Gardners, Pennsylvania. In that facility, there is stor- age for 900,000 bushels in controlled- atmosphere storage and 300,000 in cold storage. CA- stored apples are treated with MCP (1-methylcyclo- propene). They are in the process of transitioning from oak to plastic bins. Two packing lines Rice Fruit Company runs two packing lines and a pre- sort line that handles about 50 bins an hour through 18 water flumes. That line contains a six-lane Compac sizer. The main packing line is a stepped-up Compac InVi- sion 9000 CIR sorter that can sort by size, shape, color, and surface blemishes. This line is also equipped with Taste Tech near-infrared equipment that does internal defect and quality sorting, detecting flesh problems like internal browning, internal breakdown, bleeding, and watercore. "The sizing equipment was chosen with Honeycrisp in mind," David said about the new line that was installed three years ago. The new sorter is extremely gentle, he said, is able to handle large apples, and can do both inter- nal and external defect sorting. Honeycrisp is noted for its bitter pit, but the sorter has been helpful in sorting out spots on all varieties. Scab, always a problem in eastern orchards, has been more so in recent years, and some hail damage is a problem almost every year. "We upgraded our InVision sorter from the 5000 to the 9000 to do more external sorting," he said. "It has greatly reduced the amount of hand sorting we need to do. Now, for the next year or two, we want to concentrate on internal quality sorting. We need to establish our own parameters for our own apples and those in our area." The plant packs about 400,000 bushels during harvest season. "We're ten times as large as when this generation of managers took over," David said, "and we probably need to grow some more. Our growers have planted new trees that will generate another 500,000 bushels a year." Stinkbug challenge The arrival of the brown marmorated stinkbug added one more challenge to the sorting line. The bug feeds by inserting its feeding tube through the skin and deep into the apple. As it extracts the apple juices, areas of corky tissue form, sometimes well below the skin of the apple. Feeding injury may not be detected when apples are put into storage but the damage shows up when apples are taken out. In 2010, when the stinkbug first made itself known to Pennsylvania growers, it was not known how big the impact would be. "Growers had to learn how to handle the bug, and it is still not known how successful they will be," David said. "So far this year, damage is not as great as we had feared richard lehnert H. F . HA UFF C O M P A N Y I N C .

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