Machinery and Equipment Guide

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Machinery and equipment required for peach production will vary by a grower’s preferred production method and operation size. The following discussion shares basic machinery and equipment needs for peach production. Depending on a grower’s operation size, expertise and previous machinery investments, the grower must determine whether to purchase and operate the equipment, engage a custom service provider or possibly rent and operate the necessary equipment.

Machinery and Equipment Needs

Establishing a peach orchard first requires site preparation. For sites that previously grew trees or broadleaf plants, start by spraying herbicide to control those plants, eliminating old roots from the site, addressing soil issues and deeply preparing the soil with a plow. Then, establish a grass cover crop to help limit pressure from pathogens. By preparing the planting site early, growers also often contend with fewer weeds later. Related equipment needs include a sprayer for killing broadleaf plants, plow for deep tillage and broadcast seeder for planting grass seed or an alternative cover crop.

Fall preparation before the planting year begins with subsoiling, which can kill the cover crop. Based on soil test results, producers may need to apply phosphorus, potassium or lime. Later, a disk and harrow can level the planting site. Growers who choose to build terraces, construct raised beds or install tile may have added equipment requirements or a need to engage a custom service provider to manage those operations. Orchards that irrigate often use drip irrigation systems and would need to consider system installation needs.

Between receiving peach tree shipments and planting, growers may “heel in” trees. To do that, operators must prepare a trench and position the young trees within the trench. Depending on the number of trees, machinery operations may be necessary for digging the trench. For digging holes at planting time, options include a tree planter, backhoe or auger. If sides of holes are compacted, then roots will struggle to extend past those holes. In such cases, growers should use a shovel to loosen the sides.

To control weeds in an orchard, peach producers may elect to use mechanical or chemical practices. If using tillage, then equipment should reach no deeper than three inches into the soil. Otherwise, roots could be harmed. For spraying purposes, operation size will dictate the type of sprayer needed for peach production. For a small operation, a small power sprayer may suffice. On the other hand, commercial producers may require a larger, more efficient power sprayer.

Maintaining tree health and productivity requires pruning trees and thinning fruit. Pruning peach trees involves hand labor. As a general rule, allocate 20 minutes to 30 minutes per tree. To thin fruit, growers can choose from hand labor or mechanical methods. If thinning fruit by hand, then orchards benefit from the method’s precision, but it’s expensive. To thin fruit by hand, a flexible wooden rod with a rubber hose covering can assist. To mechanize the process, some growers use machine shakers. The shakers have the potential to harm trees, however, and to use them, the fruit must be large enough to fall. For thinning, a Darwin String Thinner attached to a tractor presents another option; however, hand labor may need to follow the string thinner to ensure that fruit are properly thinned.

At harvest, peach growers rely heavily on hand labor. Not only must producers find enough labor, but the pickers must also treat fruit with care to avoid bruising or other damage. Damaged fruit may spoil earlier.

After harvest, field heat could be removed using a hydrocooling setup. Peach operations may wash, defuzz, grade, pack and store the harvested peaches. Larger operations are more likely to make investments in grading and packing machinery. With cold-storage capabilities, growers can store fruit at 31 degrees to 32 degrees and humidity levels between 90 percent and 95 percent. With the appropriate storage conditions, fruit can retain its quality for roughly two weeks to four weeks.

Equipment and Machinery Needs for Peach Production

  Site Preparation and Planting Post-Planting
Tractor X X
Moldboard plow X
Broadcast seeder X
Broadcast sprayer X
Subsoiler X
Disk X
Harrow X
Fertilizer spreader X
Backhoe X X
Power sprayer X
Drip irrigation X
Hydrocooling X
Cold storage X



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