Good Fruit Grower

December 2011

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New Equipment & Technology MIXED EXPERIENCES with platforms The platform length has to suit the canopy for greatest efficiency, an Ontario grower has found. by Geraldine Warner in a way that lends itself to platform work. In his medium-density apple blocks, with trees 5 feet apart and 13 feet between rows, the canopy is too inconsistent to keep workers on the platform continually busy. In his more recent, high-density apple plantings, where the trees are four feet apart W Pasco grower Denny Hayden said a platform works well in high-density systems but he's not ready to throw out his ladders yet. with nine feet between rows and form a vertical plane, platform work is more efficient. "You can put three people on a side in the high-density and keep them very busy," Hayden said. "Platforms are very efficient with the right orchard configuration, but you really don't gain a lot of efficiencies if your system's wrong." In a Washington State University survey of apple growers, unsuitable tree architecture was the number- one reason given for not using platforms. But Tom Chudleigh, an orchardist in Ontario, Canada, says a platform can be used in medium-density orchards as long as the deck that the workers stand on is long enough for them to move around. In his experience, the deck needs to be at least six feet long for wider plantings so that if there's a gap between trees, the worker has the latitude to move to the next tree with no downtime. On a shorter deck, the worker has to wait until the platform reaches the next tree. Chudleigh operates 58 acres of pick-your-own apples at Milton, near Toronto. All the rows are 15 feet apart to allow his customers to pick their apples. His older blocks have trees six or seven feet apart, and in recent plantings, they are three feet apart in the row. His platform has two decks for workers to stand on: one 4 feet long and the other 11 feet long. He now realizes that if the decks had been 6 and 8 feet long or both 7 feet long, the platform would have been more efficient. Stools Chudleigh had the platform custom built after going to Italy last year. There, he saw retired people sitting on stools on platforms picking apples into buckets. When the buckets were full, they would swivel on their stools and empty their buckets into a bin on the platform. "Retired people at 70 years old could pick all day and not get tired, whereas handling ladders and 25 pounds of apples in a bag takes some stamina," he remarked. Chudleigh saw the potential for both expanding the labor force and reducing the cost of labor—the most sig- nificant cost in apple production—but the platforms on sale in Italy had cages around where the workers stand to prevent them from falling, and he thought the vertical cage bars would damage his trees. The platform he had built has safety harnesses for workers that are secured to metal tubes above their heads, out of the way of the trees. The bars will also serve as mounts for a shade cloth and a rain cover he plans to 36 DECEMBER 2011 GOOD FRUIT GROWER hen Pasco, Washington, grower Denny Hayden bought an orchard plat- form five years ago, he expected it to be more useful than it's actually been. But an Ontario grower says he's using his all the time and plans to add lights so he can use it at night. The problem, Hayden says, is that most of his orchard is not configured geraldine warner

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