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Hybrid string blossom thinner tested in peach orchards
Date:12/29/2010

GETTYSBURG, PA Peach producers have traditionally relied heavily on hand thinning, a necessary but costly and labor-intensive field practice. Impacted by increasing labor costs and a limited workforce, peach and other stone fruit growers are turning to mechanical methods such as string thinners to minimize the need for hand thinning. A new ''hybrid'' string thinner prototype showed promising results when it was evaluated in four U.S. growing regions; the trials resulted in significant labor savings and increased peach size.

According to Pennsylvania State University's T. Auxt Baugher, corresponding author for the research report published in HortTechnology, the goal of the study was to determine if a new string thinner prototype designed to thin vase or angled tree canopies could be adapted for varying orchard systems. Trials with the hybrid mechanical blossom string thinner were performed in California, South Carolina, Washington, and Pennsylvania commercial orchards. The prototype used in the experiments was a hybrid of a vertical rotating string thinner designed to remove apple blossoms in organic orchards and a horizontal prototype evaluated in previous peach thinning trials. The researchers evaluated blossom removal rate, fruit set, labor required for follow-up hand thinning, fruit size distribution at harvest, yield, and economic impact. Additional information was collected using case study interviews of growers and orchard managers.

String thinner trials demonstrated reduced labor costs compared with hand-thinned controls, and increased crop value due to a larger distribution of fruit in marketable and higher market value sizes. Blossom removal ranged from 17-56%, hand thinning requirement was reduced by 19-100%, and fruit yield and size distribution improved in at least one string-thinning treatment per experiment. Notably, the savings in hand-thinning requirement and increases in fruit size distribution increased the econom
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Contact: Michael W. Neff
mwneff@ashs.org
703-836-4606
American Society for Horticultural Science
Source:Eurekalert  

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