Carolina Uquillas, from Fall Creek:

“We take mechanical harvesting for fresh food very seriously…”

"We believe that among the attributes that the geneticist has to consider in the plant improvement process, such as size, firmness or flavor, they should also seek to ensure that they are suitable for mechanical harvesting."

In different international meetings, in which members of Fall Creek In recent months, the theme of the true possibility of having varieties that allow mechanical harvesting of fruit destined for the fresh market has been repeated. In fact, it was one of the relevant topics in the last Blueberry Consulting Seminar, made the April 13 happened in Monticello, in Chile and surely it will be a topic of interest also in the seminars of Guadalajara, at the end of May; in Trujillo, in July, and in Agadir, in September, because the entire industry would be favored if mechanical harvesting for the fresh market were viable, some more favored than others.

Old idea for new needs

Who first shared this news with us was Court Brazelton, telling us that Fall creek For some time now, they have been testing improved varieties adapted for this type of harvest. These are High Chill varieties, with a high requirement for cold hours and a special development structure.

There are not a few occasions where the possibility of mechanical harvesting of blueberries destined for export as fresh fruit has been discussed, but one after another they have been discarded, because it has been impossible to preserve the bloom, the entire cuticle, or to avoid blows to the fruit in the mechanical process. There are several machines from different companies that have paraded in different attempts, but all have failed resoundingly.

Carolina Uquillas

On the occasion of Blueberries Consulting Seminar at Monticello, Carolina Uquillas developed a very complete presentation of the new varieties of Fall creek for the blueberry market, which were very well received by the attendees, especially the varieties suitable for mechanical harvesting. we chatted with Carolina Uquillas, commercial manager for Chile of Fall creek for Chile and we asked him for the details of this possibility. He told us that these are indeed tests of the Collection platform, which they have been doing at the Oregon experiment station for six years. The first tests were carried out imitating the impact that the fruit received when being mechanically harvested and later a harvesting machine was used, with the aim of comparing the postharvest quality during different refrigerated storage times, in relation to that obtained with fruit harvested in a manual.

two varieties

These are the varieties ArabellaBlue FC14-062 and LoretoBlue FC11-118, which in addition to having qualities that offer better fruit, with greater firmness, sweetness and size, the plants have a different structure. They are plants adapted to be harvested mechanically without major difficulties, according to evaluations carried out in the United States.

They are varieties with a high concentration of production, in such a way as to harvest the maximum amount of fruit in a single pass, leaving only a minor surplus for manual harvest.

"We believe that among the attributes that the geneticist has to consider in the plant improvement process, such as size, firmness or flavor, they should also seek to ensure that they are suitable for mechanical harvesting," says Uquillas.

What does the plant have to have to be feasible for mechanical harvesting?

Ideally, the plant should be an erect shrub, that is, with an upright growth habit, because it is easier for the harvester. That the maturity/harvest is quite concentrated and that the fruit has an outstanding firmness.

a new machine

Carolina tells us that as a result of the continuous tests that have been carried out, they have decided to also explore the most suitable type of machine for this work, since what exists on the market does not present the best conditions, due to the fact that the drop in the fruit is very aggressive, which causes bruises and lesions on the fruit that affect its quality, condition, and postharvest life.

Uquillas tells us that Fall creek, in conjunction with companies related to this high technology, has been advancing in new designs for special machinery, which guarantees producers that mechanical harvesting will be as effective as manual harvesting, taking care of all the external and internal attributes of the crop. fruit.

Nursery in Chile

"At Fall creek We take this issue of mechanical harvesting very seriously and we have made a lot of progress in tests in different countries, including Chile, and in fact we are testing two more advanced selections, in the same direction," says Uquillas and reports that Fall creek It is disembarking with everything in Chile, because it is firmly convinced that the Chilean industry will recover its leadership positions in the world blueberry market. "A few years ago it had only one representative in the country and we are currently installing a gigantic nursery in Coihueco, in the Ñuble region, where we will be able to produce almost 4 million plants annually," he concludes.

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