Apple Harvest - Guide to Better Apple Picking
This video describes best practices for ensuring optimum fruit quality when harvesting apples.
Apples are important agricultural crop in the mid-atlantic region. Each year this area produces millions of bushels of apples that generate millions of dollars of revenue for local orchardists and support industries. As an apple harvester, you play a key role in the annual cycle of apple production. The final quality of each year's crop relies heavily on your skills as a picker. This video will help you to become a better apple picker by reviewing apple harvesting techniques, including some of the common mistakes that can occur during harvest.
Harvest success, a guide to better apple picking.
Proper apple harvesting can be divided into the following categories; preparation, ladder skills, picking, spot picking and hauling. Preparation.
It is important to come to work prepared, this includes dressing appropriately for whatever weather conditions may exist. It is a good idea to dress in layers that can be removed or added as the weather conditions change.
Recommended clothes include; hats to protect your head from the Sun, an under shirt, a long sleeve shirt and long pants. Closed toed shoes or boots are also recommended.
Remember to always keep your shoelaces tied, to prevent trips, falls and other accidents. Over shoes or rubber boots are also a good idea for wet mornings. No one likes to have wet feet all day. Keep your fingernails short and clean. Dirty fingernails can spread germs and long fingernails will puncture or bruise fruit.
Your employer will provide you with or instruct you on a type of picking bucket that they would like to use. Hard sided buckets with a padded interior provide the most protection against bruising. Be sure to check your bucket periodically to ensure that is in good working condition.
Alert your supervisor if there is a problem. To wear your bucket properly, the strap should cross over in the back, with the bucket resting against the center of your body, at a comfortable working height. Wearing your bucket properly, helps to prevent fruit bruising, adds stability when picking from a ladder, and helps to prevent back injuries.
Wearing your bucket too low, can contribute to friut bruising because you have a tendency to drop the apples instead of placing them in your bucket. You may need to adjust your bucket straps to achieve ideal positioning. If you need assistance ask a friend or your supervisor for help. Here's an example of how your bucket should look when adjusted and worn properly. Before you begin to pick, check to make sure that your bin is clean and not broken. If you're bin is dirty, remove any debris before filling it with fruit. Do not fill broken bins, instead alert your supervisor, bins are for fruit only and should not be used as trash receptacles.
You can quickly become dehydrated when working in the hot Sun. It is important to drink lots of water and take frequent breaks throughout the day.
Remember to always wash your hands before you get a drink.
It is important to dress properly when picking apples including, wearing the appropriate footwear. Be sure to keep your fingernails clean and short. Keep your bucket properly adjusted at a comfortable working height in the center of your body. Clean bins before filling them.
Alert your supervisor to broken bins, and always drink lots of water during the day.
When picking apples, it is often necessary to use a straight ladder to reach the fruit at the top of the trees. Always handle your ladder by the rails and not the wrongs to minimize the potential for contamination from your boots. When moving your ladder from tree to tree, it is easiest and safest to carry it in an upright fashion. Make sure that you always place the ladder on level ground and squarely against the tree so that it does not slip out. Be sure to remove apples that you can reach from the ground prior to placing your ladder in the tree. These apples can be bruised or knocked off by the ladder, so it is best to pick them first. Turn the latter on its side when putting it into the tree.
Place the ladder gently but firmly against the tree trying not to knock off or bruise any apples in the process. When setting up your ladder, make sure that it faces the center of the tree. This is an important step. If a limb were to break the ladder would simply fall against the trunk of the tree, not the ground. When using the ladder always keep your body centered and work to both sides, picking the fruit that is within easy reach. Do not hang over the sides or overextend yourself while reaching for fruit. Rather, move the ladder to a new position to allow for better access.
Remember, when moving your ladder from tree to tree to always carry it in an upright fashion. Do not lay your ladder on the ground, unless instructed to do so by your supervisor. ladders that are not easily seen are a hazard to other workers, equipment, and can easily be broken. In some cases you may use a tripod ladder.
Always place tripod ladders on solid ground and facing uphill. Never stand on the top two wrongs of any ladder, because it can cause the ladder to shift and fall. Ask your supervisor for a taller ladder if you cannot reach all the fruit in a particular tree.
Ladder skills review. Remember to carry your ladder in an upright position. Pick from the bottom of the tree before placing your ladder. Always place the feet of your ladder on solid ground. Turn your ladder on the side when placing it in the tree.
Avoid laying your ladder on the ground unless instructed to do so by your supervisor, and finally remember to always set tripod ladders facing up.
Picking Now that we have discussed proper dress and picking preparations and covered ladder handling techniques it is time to talk about harvesting. The most widely accepted method of picking is called roll picking. The first step, is to grasp the apple with the palm of your hand.
Next, roll the apple backwards until it snaps from the tree with the stem intact.
Use both hands to pick at the same time, then gently place the apples into your picking bucket, so that the back of your hands enter the bucket first to provide a cushion against the apples that may already be in your bucket.
Let's review the roll picking process again. First, grasp the apple with the palm of your hand.
Next, roll the apple backwards until it snaps from the tree with the stem intact.
Pick with both hands for greater efficiency, then gently place the apples into your picking bucket so that the backs of your hands enter the bucket first to prevent potential bruising. There are several reasons why the proper picking technique is important. First, simply pulling apples from the tree with force is likely to bruise the fruit and remove the stems. Apple's without stems do not store as well as apples with stems. Second, it is easy to identify apples that have been picked incorrectly. They will have noticeable fingerprint bruises. Make sure that you palm instead of grab when picking. Yanking tends to removes spurs from the tree. These fruit spurs represent next year's crop so by pulling them off there will be fewer apples to harvest next year. In addition to not pulling the apples from the tree there some other actions that are important to avoid.
Apples that have touched the ground are a potential source of contamination. Never mix apples from the ground with picked apples. Apples that are decaying or rotten should be dropped on the ground and never placed in your bin. Do not throw or drop apples into your bucket as this will certainly cause bruising. And always avoid squeezing the fruit when picking. Since you now know what to avoid let's review the roll picking technique one more time.
First, grasp the apple with the palm of your hand. Next, roll the apple backwards until it snaps from the tree with the stem intact. Pick with both hands for greater efficiency, then gently place the apples into your picking bucket so that the backs of your hands enter the bucket first to prevent potential bruising.
Continue the process until your bucket is full. It is important not to overfill the bucket, as you're likely to drop and bruise the apples that are on the top. When placing your apples in the bin do so in one fluid motion. Lift your bucket completely over the side of the bin, being aware of the fruit already in the bin. Release the ropes, allowing the apron to spread and gently pull the bucket back transfering the apples into the bin. Make sure to remove any twigs, branches, or leaves that are visible in your bin.
Fill your bins until they are level full and not heaped up, making sure that you have left enough room to allow the bins to be stacked. When transferring apples to the bin, never stop with your bucket on the edge of the bin, as this can severely bruised the apples in the bottom of your bucket. Be careful not to place your bucket against the apples that are already in the bin and remember to always release the fruit gently. Remember to not overfill your bucket as you are likely to drop the apples from the top when transferring to the bin, bruising them as well as fruit already in the bin in the process. Throughout the day your supervisor will inspect your bins. This is a normal part of the harvesting process. Supervisors check the quality of your work and look for bruised or damaged fruit. Listen to your supervisor suggestions and recommendations. They are only trying to help you become a better picker. Don't be a bruiser. Bruised apples do not store well, cannot be sold in the fresh market, and will be downgraded at the processing factory. And most importantly bruised fruit will cost both you and your employer money.
Picking review. Use the roll pick method, grasping the apple in the palm of your hand and rolling it backwards. Avoid squeezing apples or pulling them from the trees. Place apples in your picking bucket so the backs of your hands provide a cushion against fruit already in the bucket. Do not pick up dropped fruit. When transferring apples to a bin move your bucket over the bin in one fluid motion and release the apples gently. Make sure to remove any debris or excess leaves. Fill your bin but do not over fill and remember bruising cost both you and your employer money. Spot picking.
In some cases your employer may ask you to spot pick certain varieties or trees. Spot picking is a process of removing only the ripest or most colored apples from the tree leaving the others to be harvested at a later time.
Your supervisor will instruct you on which happens to pick and which apples to leave. It is important to use both your eyes and hands when spot picking to select the apples that are ready to be harvested. In general when spot picking, select apples that are highly colored and leave those that are still green.
Always inspect the backside of apples to make sure that both sides are fully colored before picking. Remember, when spot picking to always follow the instructions of your supervisor to ensure that only the proper fruit is picked. Spot picking review. Spot picking is a process of removing only the ripest or most colored fruit from the tree and leaving the others to be harvested at a later time.
Always check that apples are fully colored on both sides before picking and follow the instructions of your supervisor to ensure that only the proper fruit is picked. Hauling.
Once a bin is full, it will need to be removed from the orchard. Remember that bins should be filled level full to allow for stacking. Tractors equipped with fork lifts will hall the bins out of the orchard. You may be asked by your employer to operate a tractor during the harvest season. Always check to make sure that bystanders are safely out of the way when operating a tractor. Slide the forks of the tractor under the bins slowly and gently. Make sure the bin is square to the tractor and securely on the fork before driving. Slowly raise the bin to a safe height for transportation. Drive cautiously avoiding bumps and pot holes. If you can see apple's moving in the bin, they are probably being bruised. Full bins should be hauled to the designated loading pads as assigned by your employer. Once at the loading pad, bins will need to be stacked to make room for more fruit coming from the orchard.
When stacking, drive slowly, avoid rough ground, and make sure that bins are stacked squarely to prevent cut fruit and bruising.
Bins should be level full before they are removed from the orchard.
Place tractor forks under the bin slowly and gently. When transporting bins through the orchard, drive cautiously, avoid potholes, bumps, or rough ground. Stack bins squarely at the loading pad, to make room for more fruit coming from the orchard.
The apple harvest season is a critical time of year for your employer. An entire years worth of work can be destroyed by a few minutes of careless picking. Don't be a careless picker. Your employer appreciates your hard work and dedication. By working together your efforts contribute to a successful harvest.
Frequently Asked Questions