Mechanical Harvesting of California Table Olives
University of California
Mechanical Harvesting of California Table Olives

Overview & Objectives

Table Olive Harvesting Moving from Manual to Mechanical

The California table olive (Olea europaea L.) cultivar Manzanillo are immature at harvest
The California table olive industry relies on hand harvesting of its primary ‘Manzanillo’ cultivar. Hand harvesting accounts for roughly 45-60% of gross return; and increasing labor costs will continue to adversely affect California’s global competitiveness in the table olive market. Consequently, considerable research attention has been devoted to the development of mechanized harvesters.

Mechanical harvest has proven particularly difficult with table olives because: 1) fruit are physiologically immature and require considerable force to be removed from the tree, and 2) trunks of olive trees become stout, fluted and knobby with age which complicates the use of mechanical shakers that attach to the trunk, often resulting in ‘barking’. Thus, tree trunk damage, bruised fruit, and poor removal efficiency have limited the acceptance of mechanical harvesters in the table olive industry.

University of California, California State University, University of California Cooperative Extension and University of Florida researchers are collaborating to evaluate mechanical harvesters, fruit loosening compounds, and methods to reduce fruit damage for the table olive industry.

Objectives

This project is a multi-year team effort, extending from 2006 through 2010, embracing five major objectives. The links below provide progress updates and  annual reports regarding each of these objectives.

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