Mechanical Harvestability of Y-shaped and Pyramid-shaped `Empire' and `Delicious' Apple Trees

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

Mature `Empire' and `Redchief Delicious' apple trees (Malus domestica Borkh.) trained to a Y-shaped trellis (Y/M.26) or trained as pyramid-shaped central leaders (CL/M.7) were mechanically harvested with the Cornell trunk recoil-impact shaker during 4 years. With `Empire', fruit removal from the Y/M.26 trees (85% to 90%) was significantly less than from the CL/M.7 trees (95% to 97%). With `Delicious' there were no differences in fruit removal (90% to 95%) between the two tree forms in any year. When the catching pad was on the ground, fruit grade based on damage was only slightly better for the Y/M.26 trees than for the CL/M.7 trees. When the catching pad was raised up near the Y/M.26 canopy, fruit grade was significantly improved for the Y/M.26 trees and was better than the CL/M.7 trees. Fruit grade for both cultivars ranged from 83% to 94% Extra Fancy with 5% to 16% culls for the Y/M.26 trees and from 74% to 88% Extra Fancy and 11% to 21% culls for the CL/M.7 trees. Skin punctures, skin breaks, and number of large and small bruises were lower and the percentage of nondamaged fruit was higher with the Y/M.26 trees when the pads were close to the canopy than when the pads were on the ground. The CL/M.7 trees had higher levels of all types of fruit damage than did the Y/M.26 trees. Damaged fruit from the CL/M.7 trees was mainly from the top half of the tree, while fruit from lower-tier scaffold branches had low levels of damage. Mechanically harvested fruit from the Y/M.26 trees had lower incidences of fruit rot and flesh breakdown after a 6-month storage period than did fruit from the CL/M.7 trees. Stem pulling was high with both systems and averaged 60% for `Delicious' and 30% for `Empire'. The advantage of the single plane Y-trellis system for mechanical harvesting appears to be that the catching pads can be placed close to the fruit, thereby reducing fruit damage.

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