Submitted to: Washington State Horticulture Association Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/1/2003
Publication Date: 10/1/2003
Citation: PETERSON, D.L., WHITING, M.D., WOLFORD, S.D. TECHNOLOGY UPDATE ON THE MECHANICAL HARVESTING SYSTEM FOR FRESH MARKET SWEET CHERRIES. WASHINGTON STATE HORTICULTURE ASSOCIATION PROCEEDINGS. 2003. Interpretive Summary: Labor shortages and increasing costs of harvesting sweet cherries for the fresh market are putting an economical burden on the industry. In cooperation with the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission an experimental sweet cherry mechanical harvester was developed, tested, and yielded only 1-4% more damage than commercial hand harvesting. Harvester demonstrated good commercial potential and if commercialized should improve harvest labor productivity and significantly lower grower costs. Orchards with compatible tree training systems are presently the biggest obstacles to commercialization.
Technical Abstract: A two unit mechanical harvester was developed to harvest fresh market quality sweet cherries. Units were essentially mirror images. On each unit the harvester operator used joysticks to position and engage a rapid displacement actuator (RDA) on main scaffolds to effect fruit removal. Catching conveyors were designed to intercept falling fruit without damage and elevate the fruit to a collecting conveyor. Cushioned catcher pans on each unit were used to seal around the trunk and connect the two units. Main scaffolds were inclined to reduce damage as cherries fell to the catching surface. Ethrel (2-chloroethyl phosphonic acid) was used to reduce the fruit retention force of mature cherries to enable removal without stems or damage. The experimental harvester demonstrated potential for harvesting stemless sweet cherries with not more than 4% more damage than commercial hand harvesting. The catching/collecting system was effective with low damage inflicted to the cherries.