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International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS) Hort Forum

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The International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS) has established a new ISHS Horticulture Debate series called “Hort Forum”. According to the organizers, the idea is to have webinars followed by panel discussions and open questions pertaining to the topic being presented. This initiative will provide opportunities for debating the positive and negative aspects of some of the science and technology innovations that are current in our fields of horticulture research. The webinars are free and open to ISHS members and non-members. Sessions are recorded for free on demand viewing.

ISHS Hort Forum Episode 1

Are 2-D orchard canopy management systems a leap forward or a side-step?
Presentation by Dr. Terence Robinson, Cornell University (USA). Panelists include Luca Corelli Grappadelli, University of Bologna (Italy), Stefano Musacchi, Washington State University (USA), Gregory Lang, Michigan State University (USA) and Ben van Hooijdonk, Institute for Plant and Food Research (New Zealand).
This forum was held February 2nd and is available for on demand viewing.


Since the 1970s, fruit scientists have understood that quality of tree fruit crops is related to the exposure of the fruit and the surrounding leaves to light. This has led to more narrow canopies with higher light distribution which resulted in improved fruit quality. Concurrently, pioneers in high-density plantings have shown that early yield and cumulative yield are higher and fruit quality is better with high-density orchards and this has resulted in large improvements in lifetime profitability. Since the early 2000s, there has been a trend toward even more narrow canopies (fruiting walls) often termed 2-D systems. Those advocating these narrow systems report improved fruit quality and the possibility of easier mechanization, especially now that robotic mechanical harvesters are being developed. However, there is little data indicating that such canopies will out yield more traditional high-density canopies and more importantly that they are more profitable than a 3-D high-density system. This presentation is aimed at stimulating a scientific discussion of the value of 2-D systems and whether they represent an important leap forward in tree fruit production from an economic perspective.

ISHS Hort Forum Episode 2

Scheduled for April 27 (registration required)

The present and future use of autonomous equipment and robotic harvesters in field-based fruit production
Presentation by Dr. Stavros Vougioukas, University of California (USA). Panelists:  Ines Hanrahan, Washington Tree Fruit Commission (USA), Tim Delbridge, Oregon State University (USA), Lorenzo Marconi, University of Bologna (Italy) and Elia Bruni, Agrtec (Italy)

DATE: Thursday, 27 April 2023
8:00-10:00am (PDT) | 17:00 – 19:00 Central European Time (CET) |

Registration link

On demand viewing after April 27 and more information


Mechanizing the manual harvesting of fresh market fruits constitutes one of the biggest challenges to the sustainability of the fruit industry Robotic harvester prototypes are being developed and field-tested for high-volume, high-value crops, such as apples, kiwifruit, and strawberries. However, most of the developed robots have not, to date, successfully replaced the judgment, dexterity, and speed of experienced pickers at a competing cost; the challenges of inadequate fruit picking efficiency and throughput remain largely unsolved. This first part of this presentation will present the main factors – horticultural and technological – that shape robots’ harvest efficiencies and speeds and will stimulate discussion on approaches to overcome the existing limitations. As an intermediate step to full automation, mechanical labor aids have been introduced to increase productivity by reducing workers’ non-productive time. The second part of this presentation will introduce the state of the art in robotic harvest-aid technology and present results from deploying robotic harvest-aid systems during commercial harvesting. Finally, the presentation will conclude by discussing ‘big-picture’ issues related to autonomous agricultural machines, labor, and the existing and necessary standards and regulatory framework.

Washington State University