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Since 1995 the Florida citrus industry, through the Department of Citrus (DOC), has invested between $1 and $2 million annually to develop commercially viable mechanical harvesting systems. Two interrelated reasons are responsible for the interest in mechanical harvesting systems. First, there is an ongoing concern about the availability of workers to hand harvest the crop. In recent years, labor shortages have been an increasing problem for the Florida citrus industry. A second and more important reason is that mechanical harvesting systems have the potential to significantly reduce overall harvesting costs as compared to hand-harvest crews. As a result of the DOC’s efforts, three mechanical systems are gaining a commercial foot-hold in the citrus harvesting sector.

Scientists with the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) have been doing research on citrus mechanical harvesting systems since the early 1960s. More recently, IFAS scientists have been focusing on abscission management, tree health studies, and economic viability of the commercial systems. As part of the 2005-2006 legislative session, the state of Florida allocated $2M for “Emerging Citrus Industry Technologies” to, in large part, further the research and educational efforts into mechanical harvesting.

The purpose of this website is to be a hub for all available information on citrus mechanical harvesting-- a place where growers, harvesting contractors, processors, and other industry clientele can access the latest research material, acquire basic information on the existing harvesting systems, and provide a forum to ask questions regarding mechanical harvesting. The design of the website centers around five program areas in which an IFAS team of 9 state and 5 county extension faculty are working. The program areas reflect the input of advisory committees at the DOC and growers within Southwest Florida. The topic areas are abscission, machine enhancements (both for mass harvesters and robotic technology), tree health, grove design, and economics.

The goals of the IFAS Citrus Mechanical Harvesting Program are:


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