Harvest Precision

Posted By HBFA | February 16, 2024

As we are all aware harvest is the last time growers get to really maximise the results for the year.

The fruit on the trees is what it is, but harvest management still provides opportunities to chase fruit value, and different harvest decisions that can make or lose money.

A key perspective to have during harvest is looking at each variety and block on its own merits and challenges, alongside understanding the bigger picture of the entire orchard.

The range in fruit value for most individual varieties is significant, and in many apple varieties it can be over $20 per carton range in export fruit returns from least preferred to most preferred. This value difference is driven from the fruit availability for market access, preferred fruit size for markets, fruit colour or harvest maturity specifications, however not all of these are as financially important in every variety or even every marketer.

Growers need to know the harvest parameters that really matter to your bottom line in your orchard blocks.

Should you look to delay harvest and take an increase in fruit size and potential red coloration?

Or is early fruit with fantastic storage and eating specifications the key to get the best out of the block?

What is the correct number of picks in your block to optimize results?

Does the block justify specific field grading to remove pests or disease that could be a market access issue? Or should you just tidy up quality issues to decrease post harest costs?

Does your harvest plan show peak demand where getting bogged down could be an issue?

Focus on where you have the greatest ability to maximise your profitability. Some variety block warrant extra effort and potential cost, some do not.

Once you have the block harvest specifics you need to ensure your harvest quality teams are focused in these specific areas (field grading, fruit size, colour, maturity). To do it, you must set up specific, clear and deliverable rules to the pickers that allow them to carry out their jobs as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Harvest is the busiest time on an orchard, with ongoing decision making needing to be done on a daily basis. Be sure to keep focused on looking for opportunities to maximise results for this harvest. Identify and record what has worked well, as well as identifying what could be done better for your blocks in the future. Good management brings good luck.

Jonathan Brookes

Agfirst Consultants (HB) Ltd


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