Fruit Harvesting Season
The apple harvest in Himachal Pradesh starts from July to October and is in peak from August to September. Many varieties of apples are grown here. Most common varieties that are grown are of Gala, Golden Delicious and Red Delicious. Growing apples profitably in today’s market is not a easy job. Growers must continue to enhance their management skills in order to improve their chances for success. Many growers experience difficulty harvesting and handling the fruit. All too often poor harvesting and handling procedures nullify the expertise and hard work in producing quality fruit on the tree. A grower’s ability to successfully harvest and handle their fruit could be the difference between financial success and failure. Some tips that can help to market and maintain the quality of fruit.
Checking Fruit Maturity for Harvest
Apples picked at the correct stage of maturity ripen and develop the full flavor and aroma of that particular variety .The purpose for which you are picking the fruit determines the optimum picking maturity. However, if fruit is picked too early, you will sacrifice fruit size. On the other hand, fruit picked over mature can also have problems. So one has to be wise enough to find the correct time to harvest the fruit. Not every apple on the tree ripens at the same time so one can harvest based on maturity of fruit.
Preparation for Harvest
Harvest on sunny days or at least when it is not raining.
Cut the grass under the tree before the apples ripen. Wind, rain and birds cause apples to fall to the ground where they soon get messy and attract moths, aphids and other pests which are not good for the tree bearing fruits.
Make a road so the picked fruit can be transported without causing any damage by jostling or bouncing.
Pick only the matured and give a week’s time to others before trying again. Remove any apples that are stunted, withered or grievously damaged.
Even if it’s a small tree, be safe. Make sure you have the ladder, bag and basket all time.
Always be careful when picking apples from branches that are at high this will not only cause damage to you but also to tree.
Technique Followed to Pick
Never allow the worker to just pull the fruit off the tree. This method damages the tree, usually causing other fruit to fall and can lead to significant bruising to others. This can also result in fruit spurs being removed with the apples, reducing next year’s yield. Shake the tree only as a last resort, because it causes damage to fruit and tree. One of the easiest picking techniques to teach is the “Fruit rolling method”, using this method the apple is gently turned upside down on the spur. If the fruit is ready to pick it usually separates easily without causing damage to other apples or the spur. The thumb or another finger is often placed between the apple stem and the spur as the apple is rolled upwards. Set all apples carefully in the picking bag. Do not drop the fruit or shake the basket. Fruit hitting other fruit, or hitting the side of the basket, causes bruising. Handle apples like eggs is handled.
Proper knowledge and experience of harvesting
From the future economic survival, all apple growers must learn to harvest efficiently, and to preserve quality and give quality. A grower should be a keen observer and be personally aware of his/her total harvesting and handling system without it quality suffers and grower won’t get a good price. Most apple growers are aware of the present high marketing standards and can produce quality fruit, but the most successful growers will be those who can maintain that quality throughout the harvesting and can handle fruits till it reaches the market.
Packing and picking workers
A small harvest group of workers, made up of not more than 8-10 persons, are the most efficient. Workers beyond this size make extra work for themselves by being in each other’s way or by spreading out over a large area. Keep the distance from the point of picking on the tree to where the baskets are being filled to a minimum. A small manageable crew is easier to supervise for quality and productivity, in apple quality is what gives you the price.
Fruit inspection quality
A bruise on an apple is not immediately evident after the bruise is made. It may take as long as a day or two before the total effect and severity can be evaluated. To check for bruises that have occurred during transit or while picking have to be inspected properly before it is packing the fruit if not it can spoil the whole box.
Apples are graded according to fruit size, color and quality. On the basis of fruit size, apples are graded manually or by machines in 6 grades. On the basis of fruit color, shape, quality and appearance, apple fruits can be graded in 3 or more quality grades. These grades are designated as AAA, AA and A; A, B, C; rest can be packed separately. For size grading, mechanical graders with washing and waxing facilities are available in most places now.
Apples are packed in cartons available with tray as per the grades. Corrugated-fiber board (CFB) cartons are also available for packing apples. Such cartons are of 2 types-universal cartons and telescopic tray-pack cartons. From 2012 the government has made international standard boxes provision which will be implemented from this harvest.