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Mechanical harvesting could see growth, despite recent declines in Florida

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The use of mechanical harvesting for citrus in Florida declined by about 74 percent in recent seasons, according to an article in The (Lakeland) Ledger.

Industry officials said one explanation for this decline is a widespread citrus infection called “greening,” which renders the fruit inedible and has affected more than 70 percent of Florida’s citrus.

Prof. Bob Ebel at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences said the decline has not effected the citrus economy significantly. Ebel defines mechanical harvesting as “the use of machines to remove fruit from trees with the idea that it would replace labor.”

He said he expects this type of harvesting to grow more popular.

“I believe that there is a tremendous future for it if they would really put their minds to it,” said Ebel, who focuses his research on the mechanical harvesting of sweet oranges in Florida.

“Hopefully if the distractions can get down enough to where they can then do the kind of planning that would be required, I could really see it taking off.”

Ebel said mechanical harvesting is more cost effective than hand labor.

“I’ve talked to some of the managers of some of the grooves down here in our area and some of them are very progressive and really believe in mechanical harvesting in the future,” he said. “I believe they see what I see and they really believe that this is the right way to go, so I really believe that we’ll get there eventually.”

Emily Miller wrote this story for online.

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