Good Fruit Grower

December 2012

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Inside the blueberry harvester, fingers vibrate tart cherries off the trees and they are caught on a platform made of plastic plates that flex around the tree trunk. In this harvest system, a tall trunk is not an advantage. The Korvan 7240 blueberry harvester was first demonstrated at the Clarksville Horticulture Experiment Station by Michigan State University's team at the start of the research project in July 2008. Oxley is a grower of both wine and juice grapes. "In grapes, over-the-row technology has been with us for a long time," he said. Originally, his trees were planted in rows 20 feet apart and 19 feet between trees. "We added two trees between every two trees, putting them on a spacing of about six and a third feet." This year, he bought a Korvan (Oxbo) blueberry harvester and hopes to use it next year. "We were leaning this way even before the hailstorm," he said. "The storm kind of pushed it." Oxley has grown tart cherries since 1968, so he's been through the original transition period from hand to machine harvest. The main problem with trunk shaking, he said, is that it takes six years to bring trees into produc- tion. "I don't know of any economist who'd think making an investment like that is a smart one," he said. The other issue is the life of the trees. Tart cherries can be easily damaged by heating and thawing during the winter months, especially on the sunny southwest side of the trunks, and by age 20, tart cherry orchards start showing the effects of tree loss. The decline is accelerated by trunk shaking that accumulates trunk injury and encourages tree borers, Perry added. Ken Engle, too, has been bothered by the economics of tart cherry production. He worked with Jacob McManus, Operating & Real Estate Loans Crop Insurance Country Home Loans Appraisals 800.743.2125 | GOOD FRUIT GROWER DECEMBER 2012 27 Photo by Lynn Sage CourteSy of ron Perry

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