Good Fruit Grower

December 2012

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Five tree fruit TRENDS With younger people at the helm, there'll be a greater willingness to make changes and try new ideas, says Jeff Cleveringa. by Geraldine Warner s head of research and development for one of Washington's major grower-packers, Jeff Cleveringa travels widely to see the latest technologies and trends in tree fruit produc- tion and handling. The incoming Hort Association president discusses five major trends he sees emerging in the Washington tree fruit industry. 1 H Automation Having an adequate supply of good labor will always be a concern in a labor-intensive industry, and a guest-worker program might only be viable when prices are high. Technology is needed to make workers more efficient and to make the work less physically demanding, expanding the potential work force. As he visualizes the orchard of the future, Cleveringa sees no specific tree density or row width. However, the tree must have a very thin canopy, whether grown on an angled system or vertical wall, to allow easier access to the fruit. Trees need to be planted with GPS-guided tractors so that the rows are perfectly straight and can accommodate automated equipment in the future. "I think things are going to get very precise," he said. "A lot of companies are showing great interest in automa- tion for specialty crops, including tree fruits. I'm really hopeful that we can have orchard automation that's faster, cheaper, better—all of those things—within the next ten years." However, technological advances come in steps, and growers shouldn't wait ten years until highly automated T Performance you can count on . . . COMPANY INC. H.F . HAUFF 2921 Sutherland Park Drive Yakima, WA 98903-1891 Toll Free 1-855-855-0318 509-248-0318 • fax 509-248-0914 10 DECEMBER 2012 GOOD FRUIT GROWER his year's frost had a devastating effect on the tree fruit in our area. Most growers received only 5 to 15% of a full crop. We farm 12 acres of Sweet Tango apples, and, with the aid of our Chinook Wind Machine, we managed to harvest 88% of a full crop after hand thinning 60 to 70% of the trees. We ran our wind machine 21 nights from March 28 to late April. In the hollow, we had 24-26 degrees—and some sites got as low as 22 degrees. My neighbor to the west even benefit- ed from the Chinook. He farms 60 to 80 acres of Montmorency tart cherries. His only red cherries were the 5 to 7 acres closest to our orchard, which he attributed to the wind machine. Not only did the Chinook wind machine improve the crop, but it improved the packout. Our pack out was 85%. I had a good finish on the fruit and attribute that to the frost protection as well. It definitely had an impact. LUDINGTON, MICHIGAN 5 Increased Radius Coverage by 80-150 Feet with Same HP Draw 5 Advanced Flow Design 5 Increased Horsepower 5 LESS FUEL CONSUMPTION 5 Quality Built, Affordable, Fast Payback Edge Wedge" (wider sector angle and increased air velocity) Stan Petersen Jeff Cleveringa, Washington State Horticultural Association president. or even robotic equipment comes along, he said. They should be planting those thinner trees so they're able to adopt technology that offers incremental improvements in efficiency in the interim. "If you're waiting for an automated picker that's going to reach six feet into the tree and grab an apple and come back with it, your orchard is going to be obsolete, and your neighbor will own it because you won't be around any more," he said. "The bank will have shut you off and thanked you for farming that block for 50 years." 2 New varieties Each big packer/marketer will have its own, unique apple varieties. Custom Fruit Packers, for example, has a promising new Honeycrisp-Braeburn cross developed by Regal, a new private breeding program in Washington, and will be expanding its commercial plantings in 2014. Cleveringa said the variety, which has not yet been named, looks a little like Braeburn and has a texture that's a good mix of both its parents. It keeps well, even in regular storage. Because retail shelf space is limited, retailers will feature a succession of new apples through the season as demand for the standards, such as Red and Golden Delicious, slips, Cleveringa expects. "We're not going to have ten million boxes of those new apples, so the amount of time it's going to take to move that fruit is quite little in comparison." Washington State University's apple breeding pro- gram is developing apples that won't be exclusive to any one producer but will be limited to Washington, noted Cleveringa, who is a member of the breeding program's industry advisory council. "WSU has some exciting varieties coming up as well," he said. "To have one apple variety is great, but if you can have multiple ones that all have good consumer preference and favor, that's even better." Cleveringa also sees more cherry varieties in the Pacific Northwest's future. He is on the advisory committee for the cherry breed- 5 Air Flow Starts 14'' from Hub 5 Donier Swept Tip—Reduces Tip Drag 5 The Only Fan Blade with the "Trailing ing program at WSU, Prosser, and is excited by the prospects of having new and improved cultivars— including large, firm, early maturing varieties that might replace Chelan. The committee has been evaluating about a hundred different cherries and has eliminated any that are prone to cracking or are soft, he said. "If the cherry is soft, it's out of the program and that's the end of it because we can't tolerate softness as an industry." He expects most new varieties—unless they're very distinctive—will be marketed as sweet dark cherries or blush types, rather than by variety name. "As an industry, we have to make sure our supply of cherries is seamless good quality," he said. "It doesn't matter if it's Skeena or Cristalina, it has to have good eating quality all the way through the whole supply chain."

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