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David Sparks Ph.d Modern apples
by David Sparks Ph.d, click here for bio

Program: Line on Agriculture
Date: June 26, 2019

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A chat with Jim Bair of the U.S. Apple Association concerning the modernization of today's apple orchards. For a lot of people if they were to see a modern apple orchard they would think that maybe they were looking at a vineyard or grape production that has much to do with modern day apple production and harvesting methods and technology starting with the trees themselves. If you recall orchards or even a backyard apple tree from your youth rounded canopies and some trees as much as 30 feet high. Bair says those are long gone and commercial apple production apples now new orchards.


The trees are planted from two to three feet apart on eight to 10 foot rose and the branches are trained on two trellis wires. The reason for that is because labor’s our number one expense. Everything is still hand-picked. And so if we can keep the fruit down at a place on the tree where a picker can get to it standing on the ground without having to carry a ladder, climb up and down on a ladder, so it's safer it's higher production the fruit all gets better sunlight so it gets a nicer color. So there's a lot of advantages to it. You know while efficiency production and ask static fruit quality has increased with installation of these new types of orchards beer ads. So has the cost.


It's very expensive. It costs about fifty thousand dollars to put in an acre of apple orchard and that's not including trellis work and irrigation and tractors and everything else. That's just the cost of the trees themselves. Now consider it takes four years on average for a new apple orchard to bear commercially viable fruit for a grower. So you're servicing the debt for four years waiting to get something that you can harvest and sell. beer ads.


Meanwhile the labor cost challenge continues to be addressed in part through research into viable mechanical Apple harvesters. Study that has been ongoing for at least two decades now.


However they're getting close some have predicted it might be within the next couple of years and probably whoever gets there first is going to have the goose that laid the golden egg because it's hard to find AG labor. So yes mechanical harvesters are coming.


We absolutely need it when it happens it's going to be a huge leap forward in our efficiency and being able to reduce our costs and be more efficient about doing what we do.

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