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Bob Larson Blueberry Mechanization Pt 1
by Bob Larson, click here for bio

Program: Fruit Grower Report
Date: September 06, 2018

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With today’s Fruit Grower Report, I’m Bob Larson. As blueberry harvest winds down in Western Washington, and growers enjoy another successful crop, the industry in our state continues to expand.

Washington Blueberry Commission Executive Director, Dr. Alan Schreiber says the popularity of our berries, both processed and fresh, doesn’t appear to be slowing down …

SCHREIBER … “Something that is remarkable is not how much Washington blueberries are produced, but rather the demand for Washington blueberries keeps going up every year.”

So, Dr. Schreiber says growers are currently testing out creative ways to keep up with the increasing demand …

SCHREIBER … “An area of great interest is mechanizing fresh harvest of blueberries and we’re seeing some growers try to figure out how to machine harvest blueberries for the fresh market.”

And with the labor shortage what it is, he says fresh market growers are hoping to figure out ways to machine harvest the delicate fruit …

SCHREIBER … “Right now, all processed blueberries are machine picked and almost all fresh blueberries are hand-picked. But, there’s a combination of not enough workers and the cost of labor is just too high. We can’t afford as much labor and so growers are figuring out how to fresh harvest blueberries and this year there will be millions of pounds of fresh blueberries that are picked by machines.”

As part of a project funded by the USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative, a new system is being tested to efficiently harvest fruit with quality good enough for fresh-market pack-out.

Tune in tomorrow for more on mechanizing the harvest of fresh market blueberries.

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BL: Welcome back to another “Fruit Bites” brought to you by Valent U.S.A. With us again is Valent’s Allison Walston. And this week Allison, an organic apple production update

AW: In an annual review of WA organic tree fruit, apples came in second for organic fruit sales in the US. About 8% of the fresh apples consumed in the US were Washington organic apples and it’s projected to grow 6% by 2020. Organic sales have been increasing about 10% every year with organic apple acreage increasing about 2.5%.

BL: Is the US the top producer of organic apples?

AW: Europe is still the main production area with China exponentially increasing acreage. In Washington, about 12% of the tree fruit acres are organic apples, pears and cherries.

BL: What are the main organic apple varieties?

AW: Gala, Fuji and Honeycrisp are dominating organic plantings and transition acres. New & specialty cultivars are grown but are usually on less than 100 acres.

BL: Well, thanks Allison. Join us again next time for Fruit Bites, brought to you by Valent. Until then, I’m Bob Larson.

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