Good Fruit Grower

May 15

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Finding the IDEAL peach orchard canopies and higher densities and looking at new tech- nologies, especially platforms, as ways to grow better quality fruit and cut the cost of labor to do it. Most of the convincing data has come from Pennsyl- P vania State University's Fruit Research and Extension Center at Biglerville, where pomologist Dr. Jim Schupp works on orchard design. He and Adams County Exten- sion Fruit Specialist Dr. Tara Baugher have collaborated on mechanization studies for more than five years. At the Michigan Peach Sponsors's annual meeting in Benton Harbor in March, Schupp explained how everything fits together. "More than 60 percent of the cost of a packed box of peaches is labor," he said. "Some would argue it is 75 per- cent. Now, it's not just labor cost we have to worry about. It's availability. We need both a workable guest-worker program, and we need to increase labor efficiency." Growers will not be able to do away with labor in grow- ing peaches, especially in harvesting, he said, but use of machines like the Darwin string thinner and platforms will reduce the need for labor and allow less skilled and less physically robust workers to be part of the work force. "Even I can pick peaches from a platform," Schupp said. After several years of trials, Schupp and his colleagues have agreed they really like the orchard platform they pur- chased from the Italian company N. Blosi. It is self-pro- pelled, contains a platform that moves up and down and High early yields and potential for mechanization and reduced labor costs sought. by Richard Lehnert each growers in Pennsylvania are being urged—by some convincing data—along a path that changes the look of their orchards and the methods they use to manage them. Like apple growers, they are adopting planar in and out, and can be used for thinning, pruning, harvest- ing, and other tasks like applying mating disruption pheromones. It incorporates features that allow bins to be filled and offloaded, eliminating ladders from orchards. In peach thinning studies, platforms have improved labor efficiency by 30 to 60 percent and cut costs by $128 to $285 per acre, Schupp said. Moreover, he said, there's the intangible benefit that workers like them; platforms make work easier and less fatiguing. Planar canopies Traditionally, peaches have been grown in an open- vase shape, several scaffold limbs emanating from the trunk in a whorl. The chief benefit was low, spreading trees that reduced ladder work. These trees are not suited to use of platforms and are more difficult to thin mechanically than more upright trees. "What we're looking for in a ideal orchard is a tall, nar- row wall, two to three feet wide at the most, planted in rows 14 feet apart for vertical axis and 18 to 20 feet for perpendicular V," Schupp said. "In a wonderful synchronicity, the trees that are most labor efficient are also the most efficient biologically. The extent of light penetration into canopies is the same as the length of the human arm." Trees grown in an upright manner are taller, but with the use of platforms, the labor efficiency is about the same as for open-vase trees. In one study, Schupp looked at thinning costs compar- ing ladder systems with platforms and open-vase trees with taller ones. First, they used the Darwin string thinner to knock off half to two-thirds of the blossoms. In the This N. Blosi platform increases labor efficiency and makes it possible for less robust workers to do orchard work. Maximize Your Uptime. From RDO Equipment Co. Fit, Form, and Function: The 5EN Series. The John Deere 83 – 101 horsepower 5EN Series Narrow Tractors: proof that you don't have to compromise between fit and function. If you need a high-powered, no-compromise tractor that can snake through narrow rows or other cramped spaces, look to the John Deere 5E Narrow Series. Available in both cab and open-station configurations, and with either 2WD or MFWD, the 5EN Series was designed for vineyard, orchard, and nursery producers who need a tractor that can pull heavy carts, handle fully loaded sprayers, or lift heavy disks and tillers … all while offering a full complement of premium features and available options. Maximize Your Uptime Our customer guarantee for the ultimate service and care. At RDO Equipment Co., we do everything possible to increase your John Deere's productivity by maximizing your uptime. Through the exclusive – RDO PromiseTM – Uptime GuaranteedTM we set a new industry standard by going beyond the John Deere warranty. Ask about our custom cut downs for high density orchard applications. See your local RDO Equipment Co. store for details. OREGON HERMISTON 40 MAY 15, 2012 GOOD FRUIT GROWER 78200 S Hwy 207 541-567-8327 800-357-7925 PENDLETON 5401 NW Rieth Rd 541-276-6341 800-422-5598 WASCO 95421 Hwy 206 541-442-5400 800-989-7351 WASHINGTON PASCO 1707 E James 509-547-0541 800-735-1142 SUNNYSIDE 140 Midvale Rd 509-839-5131 800-745-4027 The engine horsepower information is provided by the engine manufacturer to be used for comparison purposes only. Actual operating horsepower will be less. John Deere's green and yellow color scheme, the leaping deer symbol and JOHN DEERE are trademarks of Deere & Company. – photo courtesy of jim schupp

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