ERO Settles the Great Defoliator Debate





The subject of defoliating, or leaf plucking, in vines and the best mechanical system for this task is frequently debated. Several factors must be considered including the need for fast and efficient leaf removal with minimal damage to canopy and, later in the season, bunches. A defoliator must have the capacity to operate at a reasonable ground speed of 3.5-6km/hr, and be simple to set up and operate in a variety of canopy styles and terrains.

Two styles of machine are predominant in the market, the ‘roller’ style which uses two counter rotating rollers with a large fan behind them pulling leaves onto the surface of the rollers to be ‘pinched’ off gently and efficiently.  The Roller system is the most widely used for an efficient result with little or no fruit damage and can be used right up to harvest commencing. The alternate system is the Airblast style which uses a jet of very high-pressure air to shatter the leaf matter and blast it out of the canopy. The Airblast system is very effective at defoliating, especially around the crowns of vines and has the added advantage (some would argue the greatest advantage/feature of the Airblast system) of being able to also blast debris and caps out of the canopy following flowering and in doing so reduce the potential for disease. The downside to the Airblast system is that as the season progresses and berries develop, the high-pressure jets of air can create damage by blasting debris against the berries, damaging skins and potentially puncturing fruit.

It is largely agreed that the ultimate result is gained from using a combination of the two different styles, however that required the purchase of two separate machines with all the challenges of swapping them over between different blocks and growth stages.

Enter the new ERO ‘VITIpulse’, the latest development from the leading German manufacturer of specialist viticulture machinery. ERO have lead the market for many years with their Roller defoliator and many operators attest to the parallelogram suspension system being easy to set up and use, without any need for complex electronic sensing systems or laborious adjustments. Following the recent acquisition of another European manufacturer of a proven Airblast defoliator system, the ERO engineers have developed a ‘best of both worlds’ solution that allows the ‘VITIpulse’ Airblast heads to be attached in the early stages of the season for initial leaf removal and canopy cleaning and then, as the season progresses, the Airblast heads are simply removed and the Roller heads installed to complete the season with efficient leaf removal without damage to canopy or fruit.

This new example of innovative design and development will be demonstrated throughout New Zealand over the coming months.



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