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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Automation of Dormant Pruning of Specialty Crops

Location: Horticultural Crops Research

Project Number: 5358-21000-047-08
Project Type: Reimbursable

Start Date: Sep 01, 2012
End Date: Aug 31, 2016

Objective:
Research will focus on automating dormant pruning of four major specialty crops—grape, apple, peach and sweet cherry—by carrying out four integative project goals to: 1) formulate and evaluate rules that describe optimal pruning in terms of measurable physical attributes of canopy structure; 2) develop 3D imaging, decision system, and robot control technologies for automating dormant pruning operations; 3) determine social and economic impacts of the proposed autonomous pruning system; and 4) communicate results and involve growers, industry groups, academia and students so they can adopt these technologies and incorporate the knowledge gained into their orchards, vineyards, businesses, classrooms and laboratories.

Approach:
1. Formulate standardized crop-dependent pruning rules to ensure that pruning cuts result in favorable outcomes (since improper pruning rules will result in negative outcomes) 2. Since fruit canopies are three-dimensional, develop 3D sensing and image analysis to determine which specific branches to remove to obtain optimal canopy dimensions 3. Create a decision system for the application of the pruning rules to the sensed data to form action steps that result in appropriate pruning cuts 4. Field test and analyze research results to assure that the outcomes of mechanized pruning are equivalent to or better than the outcomes produced by manual pruning and result in economic benefits 5. Train the growers in the application of automated pruning. Analyze social and economic implications to reduce or eliminate barriers to implementation

Last Modified: 8/1/2014
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