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Australia: Thinning machine saves time

A fruit bud thinning machine which could save orchardists thousands of dollars for every hectare of trees has been demonstrated at a field day in the Goulburn Valley.
Ardmona orchardist Andrew Plunkett, who is hosting an industry trial of the machine, said it had the potential to pay for itself after doing 3 ha to 4 ha. Mr Plunkett said they'd had good results with peaches and nectarine trees and were currently using it on apples.

"It's about cut the job in half compared to normal thinning," Mr Plunkett said. Fruit Growers Victoria and SPC Ardmona are supporting the Horticulture Australia trial on Mr Plunkett's orchard. The German-designed machine is the only one in Australia and at a recent field day on John Pottenger's Orrvale orchard, a manufacturer's representative, Adolf Betz, demonstrated its capabilities.

The machine comprises a rotating spindle with flexible flails that cut the buds or flower clusters or individual blooms. The Darwin 300 is attached to the front hydraulic system of a tractor. Mr Plunkett said the machine had worked so well in some areas they had not needed any follow-up hand thinning. "However, it is dependent on a uniform tree structure to work effectively and it needs to be driven by a good operator.

"It works well on Tatura trellis systems." Mr Plunkett estimated savings of between $3000 to $4000/ha. "At the price of around $12 000 (depending on Australian dollar movements) it could pay for itself after three or so hours. "Last year we spent about $430 000 on manual flower thinning. "We've been doing about 2/ha/hour. It's very quick."


Publication date: 10/21/2008


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