Measuring and extending the benefits of orchard mechanization through on-farm research and demonstration plots in western New York

2012 Annual Report for ONE12-165

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2012: $14,870.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Mario Miranda Sazo
CCE Lake Ontario Fruit Program

Measuring and extending the benefits of orchard mechanization through on-farm research and demonstration plots in western New York


This year we began mechanization studies with grower cooperator Scott VanDeWalle (Wayne County, NY) where we are studying different severities and timings of mechanical sidewall shearing. This tall spindle orchard plot compares mechanical shearing using a vertical cutting bar positioned at one or two foot from the main trunk. Hedging treatments were applied on June, July, and August. Varieties are Gala and Linda Mac on M.9 rootstock.
Several early spring frosts damaged the apple crop in Western NY this year. Hand thinning was not needed/conducted with ladders or with platforms to maximize harvest of both apple cultivars. Linda Mac was hedged but we did not have enough fruit for yield or fruit quality data. Frost damage was less severe for Gala which allowed us to collect yield data in September. Additionally, we evaluated proportion of shoots on the whole tree which were cut by the machine, number of fruits cut off, shoot re-growth, and light intensity in the canopy at three heights.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Evaluation of mechanical sidewall shearing of mature apple orchards to examine reduced cost pruning strategies and to create a fruiting wall.
Evaluation of hand thinning with a platform (not conducted due to severe frost events in 2012 )


Summer sidewall shearing was fast and left the trees with a “manicured” look. The cost and time amounted to a fraction of the time (5%) to do manual summer pruning. When the sidewall shearing was done at bloom (at another site in NY) there were some flowers cut off but the grower viewed it as a dormant pruning. However, when the sidewall shearing was done in June, July, or August some fruits were cut off and the grower was more concerned.
Growers learned about this project and were shown platforms, hedgers, and videos of summer sidewall shearing during the 2012 LOF Summer Tour in July 24 (Stop 6 at the VanDeWalle site).

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The sidewall shearing treatments did not induce any substantial shoot growth regardless of the timing of the mechanical pruning. However, with the early timing (early June) we saw the development of short re-growths with a terminal bud, which likely will be flower buds next 2013 spring. With the August timing there was not regrowth at all. We plan to evaluate return bloom next spring (May 2013). Preliminary results of this project will be presented to growers at the NY Expo in Syracuse in January 2013.


Alison De Marree

[email protected]
Extension Associate
CCE Lake Ontario Fruit Program
1581 NYS Rt. 88N
Newark, NY 14513
Office Phone: 3153318415
Terence L. Robinson

[email protected]
Dept. of Horticulture, Cornell U.
630 W. North St
Geneva, NY 14456
Office Phone: 3157872227
Scott VanDeWalle

[email protected]
Fruit Grower
VanDeWalle Fruit Farm LLC
PO Box 31
Alton, NY 14413
Office Phone: 3154832051