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

2013 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


In 2013 summer sidewall shearing was again fast and left the trees with same “manicured” look as in 2012. The cost and time amounted to a fraction of the time (5%) to do manual summer pruning. When the sidewall shearing was done in June, July, or August some fruits were cut off. Fruit counts showed that the number of fruits cut off was 2-5% and would be no more than dropped to the ground by hand thinning.

The sidewall shearing treatments did not induce any substantial shoot growth regardless of the timing of the mechanical pruning. However, with the early timing (mid June 2013) we saw the development of short re-growths with a terminal bud, which likely will be flower buds next spring 2014. With the August timing there was slightly less regrowth.

At harvest there were no large differences in fruit color among treatments. However, the sidewall shearing treatments had slightly better fruit color than the un-sheared controls.

This ongoing research and the grower cooperator have significantly helped NY fruit growers to improve orchard labor efficiency.

Objectives/Performance Targets

We continued the existing on-farm experiment with Gala and McIntosh on M.9 at the VanDeWalle site (Alton, NY). The plots were hedged in mid June, mid July, and mid August 2013.

Evaluation of pruning and hand thinning with a platform were conducted for both cultivars in 2013.

We evaluated return bloom at the beginning of spring 2013.

We evaluated the proportion of shoots on the whole tree which were cut by the machine, number of fruits cut off, shoot re-growth, and harvested plots in September 2013.


We conducted a pruning workshop of mature Gala and McIntosh tall spindle trees, invited growers to prune on the platform, and see the fruiting wall we started in partnership with grower cooperator on February 18, 2013.

The partial results of this project were also presented at the Geneva field day on August 1, 2013. Growers and employees had a hedger for them to see how Gala trees were hedged.

We also published 2 orchard mechanization articles (attached) in the New York Fruit Quarterly in 2013. These results helped apple growers understand high density planting systems and the value of new technologies as platforms and hedgers and which one they should implement in the future.

Preliminary results of this project were presented at the 2014 Winter Fruit Schools in Niagara and Wayne Counties in February 3 and 4 (talk titled “Our Vision of Orchards of the Future” by Dr. Robinson).

The VanDeWalle site will again be hosting a pruning workshop as part of a Winter Pruning Tour in Wayne County on Thursday February 20, 2014 (attached). This meeting is free, does not require a pre-registration, and is open to all Northeastern fruit growers interested to improve orchard labor efficiency during the winter months.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Results from 2012 and 2013 are encouraging so far in that there was little regrowth from the sidewall shearing treatments with the Tall Spindle system. We plan to continue this study we started in 2012 by repeating the same treatments on the same trees for the next 2 years (2014 and 2015). A long-term strategy that a grower in France has implemented is to use annual side-wall shearing of Tall Spindle trees for 3 successive years with no other dormant pruning but in the third year to add a dormant winter corrective pruning to remove limbs that have become large and are causing internal canopy shading and poor quality. Such a pruning strategy could reduce total annual pruning costs in Tall Spindle orchards by about 65% and help Northeastern apple growers remain profitable and competitive.


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