Peter Kemp, farm manager at Boxford (Suffolk) Farms.

At the 2019 National Fruit Show, NP Seymour showcased a pioneering orchard defoliator from German manufacturers Fruit-tec. Working in partnership with ERO, Germany’s leading manufacturer of specialist viticulture machinery who produce the Elite and VITIpulse defoliators, Fruit-tec released its REDpulse Duo for top fruit growers. 

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. 

Today’s growers are under a lot of pressure from supermarket buyers who recognise that consumers are drawn to bright, attractive looking fruit. In a bid to enhance the quality and saleability of their crop, Boxford (Suffolk) Farms has invested in their first REDpulse Duo. Taking delivery of the new machine on 18 August, farm manager Peter Kemp explains how the defoliator will be put to use on the 110-hectare top fruit farm. 

“Previously we’ve done a little bit of summer pruning and we have been through and taken some of the tops off to try and get more light to the fruit but nothing else,” said Peter. “Some of our clones of Gala and Braeburn are lacking a little bit of colour compared to others we have planted. For instance, some of our Gala clones are hardly red while our Gala ONE is quite bright already. There is a huge difference and that’s exactly the same story with the Braeburn.”

With improved colouration Peter is hoping for a higher percentage of Class 1 fruit, taking the farm from 80% to 85% or 90% to 95%, which will make a significant different to their business. When it comes to harvest too, it is expected that more uniformed fruit will make life easier for pickers. 

Having previously invested in a defoliator for the farm’s raspberries, Peter got in touch with NP Seymour to see what they could offer for the top fruit. 

“I was looking at two different defoliators and we decided to go with the Fruit-tec mainly because we will also be able to attach the Darwin mechanical blossom thinner, and a hedge cutter attachment for pruning, to the same frame,” said Peter.  “NP Seymour has been very good to work with. Tom Wheatley was great; he came out to help us set it all up and spent an hour with us out in the orchard. There have been no problems at all and although the driver does have to be on guard while using it, because you have to drive relatively close to the trees, it’s really easy to use.” 

While the leaf remover for the raspberries is designed to improve air circulation and reduce disease pressure, the REDPulse Duo will focus on the middle of the 3-metre Gala and Braeburn trees, to remove the leaves from the fruit zone and expose the apples to the sun. 

“We have left an empty row in each orchard so we can compare fruit colour side-by-side,” said Peter. “We started using it just a few days ago – they say it should be done 10 to 16 days before harvest – and so it’s too early to comment on performance at the moment but hopefully next year we will have some good results to share.”