Can Orchard Cooling Improve Fruit Quality?
Washington State has close to 175,000 acres of apples grown on some of the most fertile ground in the US. With the perfect balance of warm days and cool nights, it’s an ideal location for apple production and orchard cooling.
However, in the summer months, there’s a chance for the fruit to sunburn with too much heat and sunlight. Over the years, growers have been utilizing different cooling methods to try and reduce the sun damage effect and look for ways to protect their crop from diseases and blemishes.
One type of cooling that is showing great results is ‘Evaporative Cooling’, which is the process of water-evaporation that results in decreasing the air temperature for a cooler surrounding area. With this type of cooling, the mist from the fogger is pulling heat from the fruit and leaves which cools the apples and creates a micro-climate for better growth.
JAIN Irrigation has studied this for years and has developed a ‘fogging/cooling system’ that can be adapted to any new or existing orchard. The JAIN Cooling System is comprised of either a 2 or 4- way fogger at two flow rates (1.8 & 3.6 GPH) depending on the tree spacing, available water, and pressure requirements. In many cases, the foggers are spaced 15-ft apart down the tree row and about 15-ft above ground which is at or above the tree canopy The average flow per acre is about 15.5 GPM/A (depending on spacing and flow rate) which is a 35% water savings compared to a traditional sprinkler method.
Ric Valicoff, a 3rd generation Orchardist in the Yakima Valley, and leader in the fruit industry, has been growing apples for over 40 years. In addition to his drip and micro sprinklers, Ric has implemented an above-tree fogger system to keep his Honeycrisp apples from developing sunburn and other physical blemishes.
Ric has installed a JAIN Fogger system, about 15 ft apart on every tree row in his high-density orchard. He attributes most of his current success in his Honeycrisp apples to the JAIN Foggers and says “it creates a blanket of mist throughout the entire field that lowers the air temperature by 20 degrees. The orchard cooling system has helped increase our yield, improve our quality, and has helped increase the color in the fruit — all important factors when marketing an apple crop”.
Benjamin Bauman, Owner of AquaTech Irrigation Supply, has been an advocate of this technology and has been consulting with Ric Valicoff and other growers to consider this type of orchard cooling system. Benjamin says, “The JAIN Fogger is the perfect option for evaporative cooling in tree fruit crops. With its unique design to create an ultra fine droplet size at lower pressures, it’s a responsible choice that can save growers up to 35% of the water used compared to traditional sprinkler methods”.
Another success story is Noe Rodriguez – Farm Manager at Zirkle Fruit which was founded in the late 1800’s in the Yakima Valley and has been a pioneer and leader in the fruit industry.
Noe spends most of his time managing several orchards and making sure that each tree receives the proper amount of water and fertilizer for maximum yield and quality. Noe has been working with Orchard Vineyard & Supply (OVS) and JAIN Irrigation to tailor a cooling system that will operate the foggers at lower flows and pressures while providing optimum coverage to the orchard.
When asked about the orchard cooling system, Noe says “I really like the coverage we are getting with the foggers. It’s providing a cooling effect that is lowering the field temperature substantially. I can see the results in the fruit, and would recommend this orchard cooling system to anyone”.
Juan Pinon, Sales Manager with OVS says “many growers in Washington and Oregon are looking for ways to protect their crop from sunburn while trying to manage their water usage. We’re happy with this technology, and will continue to promote these types of water-use-efficiency systems with our customers”.