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Open AccessReview

Sensing and Automation in Pruning of Apple Trees: A Review

by Long He 1,2,* and James Schupp 2,3
1
Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA
2
Fruit Research and Extension Center, Pennsylvania State University, Biglerville, PA 17307, USA
3
Department of Plant Science, Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Agronomy 2018, 8(10), 211; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy8100211
Received: 23 July 2018 / Revised: 25 September 2018 / Accepted: 26 September 2018 / Published: 30 September 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sensing and Automated Systems for Improved Crop Management)
Pruning is one of the most important tree fruit production activities, which is highly dependent on human labor. Skilled labor is in short supply, and the increasing cost of labor is becoming a big issue for the tree fruit industry. Meanwhile, worker safety is another issue in the manual pruning. Growers are motivated to seek mechanical or robotic solutions for reducing the amount of hand labor required for pruning. Identifying tree branches/canopies with sensors as well as automated operating pruning activity are the important components in the automated pruning system. This paper reviews the research and development of sensing and automated systems for branch pruning in apple production. Tree training systems, pruning strategies, 3D structure reconstruction of tree branches, and practice mechanisms or robotics are some of the developments that need to be addressed for an effective tree branch pruning system. Our study summarizes the potential opportunities for automatic pruning with machine-friendly modern tree architectures, previous studies on sensor development, and efforts to develop and deploy mechanical/robotic systems for automated branch pruning. We also describe two examples of qualified pruning strategies that could potentially simplify the automated pruning decision and pruning end-effector design. Finally, the limitations of current pruning technologies and other challenges for automated branch pruning are described, and possible solutions are discussed. View Full-Text
Keywords: tree fruit; pruning; sensing; automation; robotics tree fruit; pruning; sensing; automation; robotics
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He, L.; Schupp, J. Sensing and Automation in Pruning of Apple Trees: A Review. Agronomy 2018, 8, 211.

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