In last week's Journal The English Apple Man relayed news form 'down under' and this week we take a look at some interesting news from apple growers in USA.
Maximising the value of fruit on the tree is the aim of every fruit grower and in the recent Good Fruit Grower an ingenious machine for removing leaves (close to harvest) encourages better colour on apples in the lower half of a tree.
It is common practice to 'summer prune' apple trees allowing better light penetration; this is normally done with secateurs, removing some (but not all) of this season's vegetative growth.
In some cases growers have removed the leaves by hand (stripping)
Growers use various strategies to improve light penetration, on of which is laying white reflective sheet in the alleyways deflecting sunlight up into the tree. Reflective white woven mulch cloth Extenday can overcome these shortcomings by improving light utilisation in the orchard, if spread 5-6 weeks prior to anticipated harvest on the grass of the alleys between the tree rows.
Below: left; Extenday woven reflective sheet used to increase light reflection into the trees and right; bunches of grapes
In vineyards removing leaf to expose the bunches of grapes before harvest is now a standard strategy. This has encouraged the development of machinery capable of removing the leaves of apple trees.
To view Olmi machine removing leaves on grapes: Click on OLMI GRAPE LEAF REMOVAL
Click on OLMI to access Olmi website.
And that's why Washington growers were very interested in demonstrations this fall of new pneumatic defoliators that use alternating pulses of air to strip off leaves and expose fruit to sunlight.
Two models made their Washington debut this year: one developed by German company Fruit Tec, best known in the tree fruit industry for the Darwin string thinner, and the other developed by Italian company Olmi.
Jurgen Schmid, sales manager for Fruit Tec, explains how the REDpulse Duo pneumatic defoliation machine can tilt from vertical to V-trellis apple tree architectures. The tractor-mounted defoliator blasts leaves off trees with jets of air nearing 60 miles per hour, to help apples color more evenly near harvest.
Below: left; REDpulse Duo pneumatic defoliation machine and right; machine in operation exposing apples
To view Redpulse Duo in action click on: Redpulse Video
Grower Travis Allan said the Fruit Tec machine he tested looked very promising, compared to the $700 to $800 an acre he spends to have a crew remove leaves. If the fruit looked good a few days after the demo, he said he planned to buy one.
Most customers say they are happy to do it in the lower part because that is their problem area, but some customers want to do everything," Schmid said. However, doing the top and bottom would require two passes.
Greg Hamilton, owner of MGH Equipment, which is distributing the Olmi 501 F defoliator through Washington Tractor, said a couple of growers urged him to look into the leaf removal equipment last winter.
Click on OLMI Apple leaf Defoliator to see this machine in action.
Across the globe apple growers are competing to sell 'their apples' to consumers: the continuing rise in visual and textural standards is never ending. At the same time the pressure (from the marketplace) to drive costs out of the supply chain (Supermarkets compete with each other, and none wish to raise the price).
If defoliation results in more apples harvested in the 'first pick' and the increase in quality fruit entering cold stores, the resulting cost benefits are another reason to engage this new technology.
That is all for this week
The English Apple Man