LAKE ALFRED, FL Harvesting is an expensive enterprise for Florida's important citrus industry. In fact, harvesting can account for as much as 50% of the production cost for citrus crops. To improve production and decrease costs associated with hand harvesting, Florida's researchers and citrus producers have been working for decades to develop cost-effective mechanical harvesting technologies.
In a new study in HortScience, Timothy M. Spann and Michelle D. Danyluk from the University of Florida's Citrus Research and Education Center, designed experiments to determine the amount and types of debris in mechanically harvested loads of sweet oranges compared with hand-harvested controls. The research yielded data that will be valuable for evaluating the costs and benefits of mechanical harvesting, and should assist agricultural engineers working to develop debris removal systems for mechanical harvesting machines.
Although mechanical harvesting is advantageous to many in the citrus industry, the technology is not without its drawbacks. Orange juice processors report that mechanical removal of leaves, twigs, and branches results in more debris being delivered to processing plants. "Any increase in debris entering the processing plant increases operational costs as a result of machine damage, labor to remove the debris, and disposal costs," explained Spann.
Spann and Danyluk collected debris samples from three different harvest systems: hand harvesting (control), continuous travel canopy shake and catch harvesting system, and tractor-powered continuous travel canopy shake harvester. Study results indicated that mechanical harvesting increased the amount of debris per load of fruit by as much as 250% compared with hand-harvested fruit. In addition, the amount of sand on the surface of mechanically harvested fruit that was picked up from the orchard floor was found to be up to 10 times greater compared with hand-harvested controls.<
|Contact: Michael W. Neff|
American Society for Horticultural Science