Evaluation of a New Machine for Flower and Fruit Thinning in Stone Fruits

Alberto Assirelli, Daniela Giovannini, Mattia Cacchi, Sandro Sirri, Gianluca Baruzzi, Giuseppina Caracciolo
2018 Sustainability  
Peach and apricot trees usually set more fruit than they can adequately support. Crop load adjustment through fruit thinning is a routine practice adopted by fruit growers to obtain a marketable product. However, hand thinning is an expensive, labor-intense operation. The interest in the mechanization of thinning has increased in the last decades. A new machine, consisting of a tractor-mounted rotor equipped with elastic rods radially inserted on a central axis, has been recently developed to
more » ... in both flowers and green fruits in stone fruit crops. In order to test its effectiveness and optimize the operative conditions, trials were carried out in 2016 in two apricot and two peach commercial orchards located in the northeast Italy. Tests were carried out on narrow-canopied orchards, during blooming time, and on green fruit, assessing the flower and fruit removal percentage and the labor saving as compared with the standard fruit hand-thinning practice. In apricot, the machine removed 20.8% of flowers and 43.6% of fruit, allowing 48% time saving in the follow-up fruit manual thinning as compared with the control (hand-thinning only). In peach, mechanical thinning at blooming time removed 63% of flowers, allowing 42.4% time saving in the follow-up fruit manual thinning as compared with the control, whereas mechanical thinning of fruit at the beginning of pit hardening stage removed less than 10%. The development of a mechanical thinning practice, complemented by a manual finishing, could represent a valuable near-term solution to reduce thinning labor time.
doi:10.3390/su10114088 fatcat:5kiuzbynxbhsrnzyjpyzuvvtp4