Submitted to: Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association Winter Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: January 9, 2004
Publication Date: January 11, 2004
Citation: TAKEDA, F., PETERSON, D.L. HORTICULTURAL CONSIDERATIONS AND NEW MACHINE HARVESTING CONCEPTS FOR FRESH MARKET QUALITY BERRIES. GEORGIA FRUIT & VEGETABLE GROWERS ASSOCIATION WINTER CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS. 2004. P. 85-92 January 2004; p. 85-92. Interpretive Summary: Fresh blackberry and blueberry producers in the United States are facing shortage of skilled laborers to harvest their highly perishable crops and the rising cost of harvest labor is placing them at a competitive disadvantage in the world marketplace. However, machine harvested berries are bruised excessively and are not fresh market quality. We conducted research to develop machine harvesting systems to harvest fresh market quality blackberries and blueberries. We developed a trellis system that oriented the fruiting canopy in a horizontally plane to reduce the distance the fruit falls to a catching surface. A new bramble harvester penetrated the canopy from above to reduce the contact between the fruit and the shake apparatus. New cane training technique improved productivity and labor efficiency. However, the fruit harvested by a USDA experimental bramble harvester did not have high fresh market quality. USDA engineers developed an experimental blueberry harvester which has an apparatus that divides the bush and bends the canes to a 45° inclination for fruit detachment. The field tests showed that it was possible to machine harvest blueberries with high fresh market pack-out and with little internal damage. We have identified other changes required to gain wider acceptance by the blueberry industry for a fresh market quality blueberry harvester. The new blueberry harvester can harvest rapidly and reduce harvest costs to about 7% of hand harvesting. This will allow growers to reduce their reliance on large labor force needed for hand harvesting of small fruits.
Technical Abstract: Research by USDA-ARS scientists and engineers at the Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, WV, on machine harvesting fresh market quality blackberries and blueberries are summarized. They considered horticultural aspects of growing the crop and new machine harvesting concepts for developing commercial prototype mechanical harvesters capable of selectively removing mature berries without causing fruit damage. Factors affecting uniform fruit ripening, lack of difference in detachment force between mature and immature berries, plant architecture for narrow, uniform fruiting canopy, and retention of high fruit firmness and shelf life were identified. It was decided that a trellis system or a mechanism at the front of the harvester was required to orient the upright fruiting canes into a horizontal plane so that mechanical shaking could be done from above the canes to reduce the drop height and to reduce fruit bruising. The engineers showed that their experimental V-45 blueberry harvester could harvest high fresh market quality blueberries. A new trellis and cane training system was developed for blackberries to improve fruit quality, but machine harvesting blackberries with fresh market quality fruit does not appear attainable without a variety with greater fruit firmness and lower fruit detachment force.