Keith Striegler and Tammy Jones, University of Missouri
As skilled vineyard labor becomes less available and more expensive to obtain, many vineyard operations are looking to machinery to accomplish tasks previously done by hand. Mechanical harvesting has been one of the most widely adopted vineyard mechanization practices.
In the early to mid 1960’s, the vineyard industry began to see major growth in the development of mechanical harvesting. Since then, the mechanization has evolved considerably and has led to better machines. Research into the effects of mechanization demonstrated that grape quality was unaffected and, in some cases, improved with the introduction of machine harvesting. Growers and researchers began to look for ways to refine and upgrade the machinery and to modify vineyards to be more compatible with mechanization.
Most commercial harvesters utilize pivotal strikers or trunk shakers to remove the fruit from the vine. Pivotal strikers use a double bank of flexible, horizontal rods that strike the canopy and shake the fruit loose. Trunk shakers use rails that move back and forth and shake the upper trunk and cordon. Other types of harvesters include a striker-shaker combination and a horizontal impactor.
In some areas, mechanical harvesting is believed to reduce labor costs up to 75%.
Past, Present, and Future of Vineyard Mechanization, University of Arkansas
J.R. Morris. 2007. Development and Commercialization of a Complete Vineyard Mechanization System. HortTechnology 17: 411-420.
Reviewed by Eric Stafne, Mississippi State University and Patty Skinkis, Oregon State University