Posts Tagged: mechanization
“We set this up to be a no-touch vineyard,” Kurtural said. “All the cultural practices are done by machine.”
Kurtural's original intent was to help farmers deal with labor shortages, but the trial also produced superior winegrapes.
“When I took the job at the University of California, the labor situation started to get worse,” Kurtural said. “If we didn't have people to prune grapes, we weren't able to finish pruning. So we said, ‘We are a research station, let's develop a solution.'”
In the research vinyard:
- A machine equipped with telemetry and GPS sensors prunes the vines
- Soil and canopy data are collected manually
- Spurs and suckers are thinned with a specially designed pruner
- Clusters are thinned mechanically
- The grapes are harvested mechanically
“We can do all the practices mechanically now,” he said. “There was no economic need to do this previously, but now there is.”
Kurtural attributes the winegrape quality improvements to the tall canopy, which protects grapes from sun damage. The system also uses less water.
For complete details, watch a 40-minute lecture by Kaan Kutural online
The story was based on research by agricultural economists at UC Davis and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The report, titled “Labor Trajectories in California’s Produce Industry,” found that changes in the way immigrant labor is regulated in the U.S. would increase the cost of labor for California's $20 billion fresh fruit, nut and vegetable industry.
“California’s produce industry depends on a constant influx of new, foreign-born laborers, and more than half of those are unauthorized laborers, primarily from Mexico,” the UC Davis news release quotes Phillip Martin, a professor of agricultural and resource economics.
“The cost of hiring these laborers will likely rise as the U.S. government ramps up enforcement of immigration laws by installing more physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border and requiring more audits of workers’ I-9 employment verification forms,” Martin said.
Read more in the current issue of the ARE Update.