Workers are using satellites to keep them on track while planting new apple trees in a 100-year-old pear orchard that Domex Superfresh Growers cleared in fall 2013.
Dave Gleason, chief horticulturist for the Yakima, Wash., company is overseeing the project, which he describes as a high-density orchard.
A tractor equipped with a global positioning system allows Gleason to sit back and enjoy the ride once he gets it going down a row. He said in a company video that the GPS keeps the rows straight within a one-inch variance. A computer screen in the cab shows the position to the driver as it automatically makes steering corrections.
Behind the tractor, a specialized implement with a platform for workers and young trees opens the ground, creating a trench. Workers quickly drop the fruit trees into the trench as the unit rolls along. Small blades and rolling drums fill in the trench after the trees are dropped into the row.
In other, mature Superfresh orchards, the next crop is showing signs of life. In an orchard update on March 31, Gleason said the buds are coming out and becoming sensitive to the cold temperatures that will remain a threat for the next few weeks.
“We have a night crew that’s working on frost control using wind machines, water and propane heaters to add heat to the orchard to keep the buds from freezing,” Gleason said in the orchard update.