High density apple plantings are a must for harvest machine

Planning ahead will help you reap the benefits of apple harvesting more efficiently.

The DBR Vacuum Apple Harvest Machine was demonstrated in five Michigan orchard locations during the October harvest with the assistance of DBR, the Michigan Apple Committee and Michigan State University Extension. The most telling results of viewing and operating this harvesting aid machine was the need to have orchards of high densities; that is, this machine will work most efficiently with row spacings of 10 to 12 feet. While it can work in 14-foot row spacing, the efficiency drops due to difficulty of workers reaching the center of these wider rows, and the presence of larger limbs sticking out into the row in the path of the machine and workers.

Growers need to carefully consider the spacing of new plantings for the future. Once an orchard is planted, the grower will live with the system for many years – perhaps up to 30 years. Matching the row spacing to the potential machine that will be used for harvest or other horticultural tasks is key to gaining the most efficiency and, therefore, lower costs. A wide spacing will not allow a grower to capture the lower harvest costs of using the harvester in 12-foot spacing or less. Also, the platform portion of this new machine can be used to capture lower costs of pruning, hand-thinning and training trees. Growers are encouraged to plant no wider than 12-foot row spacings to allow best use of platforms and harvest machines in the future.

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