Can orchard defoliators increase the number of apples in the first pick and does allowing more sunlight really improve colouration?

Last August we were excited to deliver the UK’s first REDpulse Duo orchard defoliator to Boxford (Suffolk) Farms.

Developed by Fruit-tec, who many of you will know as the makers of the Darwin mechanical blossom thinner, in partnership with ERO, who produce a range of vineyard trimmers and defoliators, the pneumatic REDpulse Duo emits a high frequency pulsating air stream to remove leaves from the middle to lower half of the tree. This in turn helps to aerate fruit and allows for more sunlight to penetrate through the canopy to the fruit, increasing colouration and making picking easier.

Shortly after we’d delivered the REDpulse Duo to Boxford (Suffolk) Farms, farm manager Peter Kemp spoke to us about why he chose the machine and explained that the farm would be conducting several trials on the 110-hectare top fruit farm, having left an empty row in each orchard so they could compare fruit colour side-by-side. You can click here to read the article from last year.

A few weeks ago, we caught up with Peter to run through the results of these trials and find out how the REDpulse Duo had performed.

“We initially used the REDpulse on most of our Gala and just trialled it on some other varieties, like Braeburn, Cox and Daliclass,” said Peter. “It’s incredibly important to get the timing right, and from an operator’s point of view, you do have to drive relatively close to the trees, so you do have to be really alert and awake when you’re using it. Apart from that there have been no problems at all, and it’s not complicated to use.”

An initial assessment was conducted on the apples in Transplant South, looking at the difference between the treated and untreated rows 10 days after the REDpulse Duo had been used. The results of this showed that 20 apples on the treated rows averaged 45% colour, compared to 20 apples on the untreated row which averaged 32% colour – overall an increase of 13% colour.

A second assessment was conducted over 25 random trees in Transplant South a month after the REDpulse Duo had been used, after the first pick of Gala. These results showed that there were significantly more apples left on the untreated trees, with an overall average of 6 apples per tree being picked in the first pick on the treated trees. There was also significantly more colour on the remaining apples on the treated trees than the untreated, with the overall average colour being 8% higher on the treated trees.


Treatment with the REDpulse Duo: 28/08/20

Initial Assessment: 7/09/20

Second Assessment: 28/09/20

From a figures point of view, based on the results which indicated that an average of six extra apples were picked per tree in the first pick, with 12,647 trees in Transplant South, that equates to 75,882 more apples picked.

Using the grading data from last year, the average weight of the Gala apples was 0.164kg, which is 12,445kg in total. Using the approx. price of 65p per kg, this added up to £8,089.25 extra for the first pick.

“Not only did it make the first pick better, but there was also a noticeable improvement in colouration on the second pick as well,” said Peter. “We were not expecting it to make quite as much difference as it did, but I was very surprised and happy to see the results. This year we are hoping to improve on these results and will be doing some more trials with it, particularly as we are now more confident using the machine.”

Like last year, the team will be looking to start using it around 6 weeks before the start of harvest and will focus the machine on the middle of the 3-metre trees, to remove the leaves from the fruit zone and expose the apples to the sun.

If you want more information, please do give the sales team a call on 01580 712200.