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Why a Better Fruit Harvest Begins with Leaf Removal

When people think about harvesting machinery, a leaf remove machine isn’t what normally first comes to mind. Leaf removers are the quiet achievers of the harvesting world, as they can significantly improve fruit production and quality in orchards and vineyards. In this blog we will shine a light on this little talked about harvesting aid: what they are, how they work, and why you should invest in your own leaf remover from Galaxy Group NZ.

What is a Leaf Remover?

Leaf removers shatter the leaves around fruit clusters, in order to produce greater light penetration and more effective fungicide/insecticide sprays, among other benefits.

On first glance, a leaf remover will look similar to a tractor as they navigate between vine rows. However, what sets them apart are their retractable turbines or blowing heads that face the vine leaf surface.

Leaf removers are frequently power take-off operated (PTO) and require just one operator.

Both suction and air-pulse leaf removal machines have been successfully used to shorten the otherwise lengthy process of manual leaf removal and improve yields.

Leaf removers also reduce the need for labour in an already squeezed labour force.

How do Leaf Removal Machines Work?

Leaf removers shatter leaves using an air pulse system administered through retractable turbines or blowing heads.

Air pulse systems blow air out of a rotating nozzle, which gives the leaves a short vibrating pulse of air. This pulse shreds the leaves and sends the particles out through the other side of the canopy.

In contrast, air blower systems suction and pluck away leaf cover. This usually requires a set of rollers and a suction of a fan that pulls away the leaves.

Which system you require depends on whether you require an early or late season leafer. An air pulse system is preferable for early season leaf removal, while an air blowing system is recommended for late season leaf removal.

How do Leaf Removers Benefit Orchards and Vineyards?

Proper leaf removal around fruit clusters can improve fruit quality and production in several ways. The most obvious benefit to the fruit is increased exposure to sunlight, which can be particularly useful to counter overwintering and bud hardiness, as well as improve ripening.

Furthermore, increased sun exposure results in better flavour, colour and bud fertility, while also decreasing titratable acidity, pH, and potassium levels. In some cultivars increased sun exposure can also reduce herbaceous or vegetative aromas.

Another benefit is greater air circulation, which helps prevent mildew and fungus.

Finally, proper leaf removal can increase fungicide/insecticide spray penetration.

However, the emphasis should be on “proper” leaf removal. An adequate number of leaves must remain on the vine to supply enough carbohydrates to the fruit clusters, otherwise your crop may suffer from poor growth, impaired fruit development and delayed/unsatisfactory ripening.

Furthermore, the success of leaf removal depends on careful timing in relation to the climate. In warmer climates, care must be taken to avoid over-exposure to sunlight, which can result in sun-burned fruit. In this case, it is often better to only remove leaves from the morning sun side, to achieve a more rounded ripening across the whole vine.

In contrast, cool climates greatly benefit from more intense leaf removal. However, regardless of what climate your crop is based in, it is best to remove leaves after bloom but well before veraison.

Why Should I get a Leaf Remover from Galaxy Group NZ?

At Galaxy Group we supply the OLMI Vortex Leaf Remover that uses compressed air to shatter the leaf canopy without damaging fruit. The olmi is suitable for both apple orchards and vineyards and makes light work of leaf removal by fitting two adjustable blowing heads around each side of the vine.

Every aspect of the OLMI has been carefully designed to achieve proper leaf removal as easily as possible, with an average speed of one acre per hour.

You can watch a video of the OLMI in action here.

Ready to Improve your Fruit Yield?

Contact Galaxy Group for expert advice regarding any of our mechanical harvesting machines. We will be happy to help you improve your business operations.