The removal of Florida citrus from the tree for harvesting is still done by handpickers on ladders and requires a work force of 20,000 to 35,000 persons. Moving fruit from the grove and subsequent fruit handling has been mechanized in the last 40 years. Factors affecting harvesting are fruit type and utilization, grove characteristics, and harvest labor requirements and costs. Although mechanical harvesting research over the past 35 years has not developed a feasible machine to replace the picker, substantial design and field performance information has been developed to mechanize the harvest of a significant portion of the crop if labor becomes unavailable or too costly. Some picking aids have been implemented to increase the productivity of pickers, but their feasibility is questionable under current conditions. Renewed attempts have been made to mechanize the harvest since 1993. A harvesting program administrator was employed by the Florida Department of Citrus in January 1995 to develop a program which will insure the harvest of future crops at a competitive cost, Record crops, low fruit prices, steadily increasing harvest costs, and more regulations are predicted for the next decade.
Paper published with permission.