Pneumatic defoliation - Does it make commercial sense? (part 3)
Costs and time required
The costs of pneumatic defoliation vary depending on whether such work is outsourced to a service provider or the fruit grower has a pneumatic defoliator of his/her own. Private companies offering defoliation via the Machinery Ring charge between 80 and 100 euros per hour. If the lower parts of the trees are to be defoliated on both sides at a speed of 1.5 km/h, this will require 4.5 to 5 hours per hectare, resulting in a cost of between 360 and 500 euros per hectare of apple orchard.
More and more fruit growers are now opting to buy defoliators for themselves. Depending on their size, several farms can often also use the equipment: as defoliation is required during the harvest time, this will also require a tractor and a driver.
Which varieties are suited to defoliation?
For most club varieties there is a minimum percentage stipulated for body colouring to permit the apples to be sold under the brand name. for two-coloured club varieties such as Nicoter/Kanzi® or Cripps Pink/Pink Lady® in particular, the price differs considerably between the first and second colour classifications. This price difference should be one of the most important criteria when deciding for or against defoliation. Fruit growers should also look at the grading results of the last few years before making their decision.
Pneumatic defoliation boosts the proportion of red body colour: its commercial viability must be weighed up in each individual case, however. The greater the price difference between the first and second colour class, the more likely that defoliation is worthwhile.
In recent years, however, significant losses due to damaged fruit or sunburn have sometimes been observed after defoliation. Care must therefore be taken to ensure that the defoliator is precisely adjusted: the timing of this additional work step must also be correctly chosen.
Source: South Tyrol Advisory Ring: Simon Wieser
Immage: Vimas GmbH - Latsch - Südtirol