Mechanisation could be future for apple growers

Adopting fruit-wall orchards instead of traditional systems could make mechanical pruning of apple trees easier and reduce costs according to AHDB Horticulture.

Increasing labour costs and uncertainties about future labour availability means that many growers are looking for ways to reduce their reliance on human labour. Modern intensive orchards are already simpler and easier to prune than traditional ones but can still require 25-40 hours of labour per hectare. In fruit-wall orchards, mechanical pruning work rates vary between 1.5 and 2.5 hours per hectare, so even though some hand-pruning will be needed, there is potential to save around £3,000 per hectare over an orchard’s 15-year life.

AHDB Horticulture has spent the last four years investigating the tree types and pruning regimes most suitable for use in a fruit-wall orchard in the UK in two projects and has now generated a number of recommendations about the timing of pruning.

Scott Raffle, Knowledge Exchange Manager at AHDB Horticulture, said, “The results from these projects could have a really positive impact on fruit growers and we look forward to sharing these results, and other research project updates, with our growers.”

An update from the research projects will be presented at the AHDB/EMR Association Tree Fruit Conference, which takes place on 28 February at NIAB EMR in Kent.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons.

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