Cherries: Harvest 2-4 weeks earlier, up to 140% increase in yield, with larger sizes and a BIG CRUNCH!
Payback can be only 3-4 harvests for premium varieties or early harvests when using automatic retractable orchard covering systems
It was 8 years ago that Cravo and Dr Greg Lang from Michigan State University partnered to install an automated retractable roof overtop of a cherry orchard in order to learn how the profitability of cherry production could be positively impacted by optimizing the climate and protecting from weather extremes.
Fast forward to 2020 and there are now installations over cherries on 4 continents which are helping to answer many of the questions concerning how revenues and the return on investment could be impacted by using automated orchard covers. The following is a list of the common questions that growers wanted answered along with the results of what has been achieved to help answer these questions.
1. Could the first harvest be advanced by one year compared to outdoor production?
• Yes. First harvest occurred in some varieties at Reid Fruits in Tasmania after 2.2 years.
• Discussion of cherry development under a retractable roof orchard cover, Reid Fruits, Jan 9, 2019
Spanish voice over
• Desarrollo de la cereza bajo una cubierta de huerto de techo retráctil, Reid Fruits, enero 2019
2. Could the flowering and harvest be advanced 2 to 4 weeks to achieve better prices?
• Flowering and harvest was advanced 15 days earlier in low light areas like Michigan
• Comparing cherry development with no protection, under a rain shelter and a retractable roof at MSU on June 23, 2014
• Flowering and harvest was advanced 3 weeks in the high light areas like at Clyde Orchards in New Zealand but they believe 4 weeks earlier is possible.
3. What is the impact of the retractable roof on:
Fruit size and firmness (since conventional rain shelters tend to cause an increase in fruit size and a reduction in fruit firmness?
- Fruit sizes at Reid Fruits in Tasmania increased an average of 2mm and fruit was extremely firm even during hot conditions.
- Pack out under the retractable roof has been 95%-98% simply from protecting the fruit from adverse weather conditions
4. Could the retractable covering be used during the harvest to help maintain fruit firmness and fruit size while extending the harvest window
• Yes. When trees are exposed to direct sunlight during the harvest, the excessive transpiration and fruit temperatures cause trees to experience water stress causing fruit to lose it’s firmness. Closing the roof 85%-90% will help reduce the leaf and fruit temperatures helping too drastically reduce the transpiration rate. This helps increase fruit size, maintain fruit firmness and allows pickers to harvest for more hours in the day.
5. Can a lower cost flat roof house make financial sense for cherry orchards?
• Yes. The retractable flat roof house is approximately 50% less expensive per hectare than the peaked roof house and is easier to install over existing orchards. The increase in yields that have been achieved are a result of creating superior conditions through the stages of chill hour accumulation, pollination, cell division, cell expansion, ripening and post-harvest tree recovery. All of these can be achieved with both a retractable flat roof and a peaked roof. The primary advantage of the peaked roof is that it protect the trees from rain fall which can be a benefit when trying to warm up the tree in the spring and obviously during harvest. However, if cracking is not a problem, then a flat roof house is perfect! However if cracking is a major risk but rain events are infrequent, then it would be advantageous to use a retractable flat roof in combination with a traditional rain shelter. In this situation, the rain shelter would only be closed if rain is forecast during the critical period instead of covering the trees for several months which would help prevent the problems of pollination, abortion and soft fruit which is typical under a rain shelter.
6. Is there a financial model for helping to calculate the potential return on investment?
Yes. Please contact your Cravo representative to receive a copy