Mechanical thinning of pome fruit

Kirstein, Deon Louw (2015-12)

Thesis (MSc)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Thinning is an important practice in pome fruit production which aims to ensure an optimal yield of high quality, large sized fruit as well as an adequate return bloom. In South Africa, pome fruit thinning is generally done by means of chemicals, with follow-up hand thinning. When thinning is effective, set and thus the hand thinning requirement should be reduced. This is important as labor cost associated with hand thinning is high and continually rising. Chemical thinning is weather dependent and can be environmentally harmful, which has led to a shift towards environmentally acceptable methods of thinning such as mechanical thinning. From 2013 until 2015 the mechanical string thinners, viz. Darwin 300™, BAUM, and Bloom Bandit™, were evaluated. These machines are used to thin trees during full bloom and reduce the number of flowers before fruit set. The aim of the trials was to reduce fruit set and therefore hand thinning requirement, while increasing fruit size and quality, maintaining yield and return bloom. A range of tractor speeds and rotational rates were evaluated with the Darwin 300™ on ‘Forelle’ pears and ‘Cripps’ Pink’ apples, while the BAUM was evaluated only on ‘Cripps’ Pink’ apples. The hand-held Bloom Bandit™ was evaluated on ‘Forelle’, ‘Cripps’ Pink’, ‘Fuji’ and ‘Cripps’ Red’. The tractor-driven mechanical thinning devices gave erratic results. The most consistent results on ‘Forelle’ were obtained using the Darwin 300™ at 5.2 km·h-1 and 300 rpm, while the BAUM gave no consistent results. The unreliability of results were due to South African pome fruit orchards currently being unsuitable for tractor-driven mechanical thinning machines. The ‘Forelle’ orchard trained to a Palmette system was the most suited for thinning, which is reflected in the more positive results obtained, but further improvements are possible. The Bloom Bandit™ effectively thinned pear and apple trees and increased fruit size without a decrease in yield or return bloom. More time is spent on thinning with the device compared to tractor-driven machines and this should be taken into account when considering using the Bloom Bandit™. Thinning intensities of 25%, 50% and 75% of clusters or flowers was applied to mature ‘Forelle’ and ‘Cripps’ Red’ trees during full bloom. Variable effects were seen on fruit set, yield was reduced to acceptable levels, while fruit size was improved in ‘Forelle’ but not ‘Cripps’ Red’. Results showed that when thinning mechanically, the aim should be to remove between 25% and 50% of flowers clusters in ‘Forelle’ and 50% of flowers clusters in ‘Cripps’ Red’. These levels of thinning gave the best results in terms of the remaining hand thinning requirements and improved return bloom in ‘Forelle’. We, however, only evaluated full cluster thinning and not within cluster thinning, which might also occur during mechanical thinning.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Vruguitdunning is 'n belangrike praktyk in kernvrugproduksie en het ten doel om voldoende opbrengs van hoë kwaliteit, groot vrugte en voldoende opvolgblom te lewer. In Suid-Afrika, word kernvrugte gewoonlik chemies uitgedun, opgevolg met handuitdunning. Effektiewe uitdunning verminder set en dus die benodigde handuitdunning. Dit is belangrik aangesien die arbeidskoste verbonde aan die handuitdunning hoog is en voortdurend styg. Chemiese uitdunning is afhanklik van weerstoestande en dit kan ook omgewing-onvriendelik wees. Hierdie nadele het gelei tot 'n verskuiwing na omgewingsaanvaarbare metodes van uitdunning soos meganiese uitdun. Vanaf 2013 tot 2015 is die meganiese Darwin 300™, BAUM en Bloom Bandit™ uitdunmasjiene geëvalueer. Hierdie masjiene word gedurende volblom gebruik om blomme uit te dun en verminder die aantal blomme voor vrugset. Die doel van die proewe was om vrugset en dus die handuitdunvereiste te verminder met ‘n gepaardgaande verbetering in vruggrootte en kwaliteit sonder om opbrengs en opvolgblom nadelig te beïnvloed. Trekker en rotasiespoed is gevarieer met die Darwin 300 ™ op 'Forelle' pere en ‘Cripps’ Pink' appels, terwyl die BAUM net op 'Cripps' Pink' appels geëvalueer is. Daarbenewens was die hand-draagbare Bloom Bandit™ geëvalueer op 'Forelle', 'Cripps' Pink’, ‘Fuji’ en ‘Cripps' Red’. Die trekkergedrewe uitdunmasjiene het wisselvallige resultate opgelewer. Die mees konstante resultate op 'Forelle' is verkry met die Darwin 300™ teen 5.2 km·h-1 en 300 rpm, terwyl die BAUM nie konsekwente resultate gegee het nie. Die wisselvallige resultate van die Darwin 300™ en die BAUM is te wyte aan die boorde wat nie vir trekkergedrewe uidunmasjiene geskik is nie. Die 'Forelle’ boord, wat as 'n Palmette stelsel opgelei is, was die meeste geskik vir uitdunning, soos duidelik uit die positiewe resultate wat verkry is, maar verdere verbeterings is steeds moontlik. Die Bloom Bandit™ het peer en appel bome effektief uitgedun deur die handuitdunvereiste te verminder en vruggrootte te verbeter sonder verlies in opbrengs of opvolgblom. Meer tyd word gespandeer tydens uitdunning met hierdie toestel in vergelyking met trekkergedrewe masjiene, en dit moet in ag geneem word met oorweging van die Bloom Bandit™. Uitdunningsintensiteite van 25%, 50% en 75% van die trosse of blomme is tydens volblom toegepas op volwasse 'Forelle’ en ‘Cripps’ Red' bome. Vrugset het aansienlike variasie getoon terwyl opbrengs tot aanvaarbare vlakke verminder en vruggrootte verbeter is in 'Forelle' maar nie in 'Cripps' Red’ nie. Resultate het getoon dat die doel moet wees om tussen 25% en 50% van alle blomme in trosse in 'Forelle’ en 50% van blomme in trosse in 'Cripps’ Red’ tydens meganiese uitdunnig te verwyder. Hierdie vlakke van uitdunning het die beste resultate gegee ten opsigte van die oorblywende handuitdunvereistes en het opvolgblom in 'Forelle’ verbeter. Ons het egter net volledige trosse uitdunning gedoen en nie blomuitdunning binne die tros wat ook tydens meganiese uitdun kan plaasvind nie.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/97920
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