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George Lobisser sees potential for in-field postharvest treatments.

George Lobisser sees potential for in-field postharvest treatments.

Geraldine Warner

When George Lobisser saw a new mobile apple-harvesting system in action, it wasn’t so much the labor efficiency that impressed him, but the 400-gallon water tank that’s on board.

Lobisser is owner and chief executive officer of Pace International, which manufactures and distributes postharvest treatments and waxes for tree fruits and other types of produce.

The harvester, which was developed by partners Picker Technologies and Oxbo International, has pneumatic tubes into which pickers place the apples. The apples are carried up the tubes to a water tank, which decelerates them before they go into an electronic ­scanner and finally into the bin.

Lobisser sees the potential for applying postharvest treatments—such as the antioxidant diphenylamine (DPA), fungicides, or quality enhancers—in the water tank.

Generally in the tree fruit industry, truckloads of fruit are drenched in bins on arrival at the packing house. Some treatments are applied in storage or on the packing line.

Lobisser said there would be a huge advantage to drenching apples in the field before they’re even exposed to pathogens. Coverage should be better when apples are treated separately before they go into the bin, and many products need to be applied as soon as ­possible after harvest for best results.

“The quicker we can get the chemical on the fruit the better,” he said.

This fall, Paramount Citrus and POM Wonderful of California, both subsidiaries of Roll International, are testing the harvesting system, and Pace added in-field drenching for the tests.

John Albert, vice president of Picker Technologies, said the ability to apply postharvest treatments should mean a faster payback for the grower. “That would change almost everything in terms of return on ­investment.”