High-density peach hedging can boost efficiency, save in labor costs

Installing a fruiting wall opens up all sorts of new opportunities for growers.

Peaches in boxes.

New technologies could enable stone fruit growers to better fight disease, provide the potential to dwarf rootstock and even to mechanize many orchard tasks instead of relying on increasingly scarce labor. To take advantage of all these opportunities, however, farmers must understand the need to implement fruiting wall orchard systems.

“Orchards are being planted and trained in a radically different way than they have been in the past,” said Gregory Lang a Michigan State University professor in the Department of Horticulture.

Lang has studied fruiting walls and will give a presentation along with MSU Extension educator Bill Shane on high-density peach hedging and how they can lead to labor savings at MSU’s Agriculture Innovation Day – Focus on Fruit and Vegetable Technologies on June 28 at MSU’s Southwest Research and Extension Center in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

A fruiting wall involves planting at much higher density than standard practice in a uniform way. This allows for narrower tree canopies which helps improve light distribution throughout the canopy and thus improves the consistency of fruit quality and ripening. Other benefits include reducing pesticide use, easier adoption of protective orchard covers or high tunnels and improved spray coverage with reduced drift.

Most importantly, however, is how fruiting walls can lend themselves to reduced labor costs. Labor costs can be high due to the need for hand thinning and pruning as well as harvesting. With increasingly dense, uniform canopies, however, mechanization becomes possible, Lang said.

“It is getting more difficult for many growers to find labor to manage their fields,” Lang said. “With the right preparation and management, however, introduces the possibility of increased mechanization and less need for labor.”

Lang will talk about proper planting and management techniques, including pruning and training canopies as well as proper crop load modification. Lang said he hopes that there will also be a robotic harvester in action.

MSU Agriculture Innovation Day: Focus on Fruit and Vegetable Technologies, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.  June 28 at the MSU Southwest Research and Extension Center in Benton Harbor, Michigan, offers a variety of fruit, vegetable and grape growing technologies, including the latest information on pollinators and equipment.  For detailed session descriptions, visit http://www.canr.msu.edu/msu_agriculture_innovation_day/ or contact Ron Bates at batesr@msu.edu.




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