Harvest Mechanization for Deciduous Tree Fruits and Brambles

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  • 1 Appalachian Fruit Research Station, USDA/ARS, Kearneysville, WV 25430-9802.

Hand-harvesting fruit crops is labor-intensive, and the supply of dependable, skilled labor is a concern of the fruit industry. Only a small portion of all fruit crops is harvested mechanically, primarily for processing. Public funding of mechanical harvesting research on fruit crops has reached a low level. However, there is renewed interest in mechanical harvesting research due to the potential scarcity of hand-harvest labor and new federal laws that may deplete further the labor pool. Much of the research expertise in mechanical harvesting of fruit crops has been lost, since most projects have been discontinued. Considerable lead time will be required to develop facilities, personnel, and projects if the decision is made to initiate publicly funded harvest mechanization research. More time will be required before commercially acceptable techniques and methods will be available. A majority of the research described in this paper was conducted outside the United States. The United States will not remain competitive in the world market for fruit crops with the present lack of mechanical harvesting research.

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