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Preharvest Checklist: Managing the Orchard Floor

Good orchard floor management prior to harvest can help harvest run more smoothly and reduce food safety risks from microbial contamination, according to Farm Advisor Joe Connell. Connell offers the following tips for orchard preharvest preparation:

  • Keep the orchard floor clean; practice good sanitation and remove potential contaminants.
  • Create an orchard floor that is smooth, bare and firm for sweeping and picking up dry harvested nuts.
  • Control rodents to eliminate their holes and mounds.
  • Control weeds; good weed control helps nuts dry more rapidly and will give you a clean sweep.
  • Prune out dead wood during summer to minimize sticks at harvest.

Follow these practical steps to minimize risk and potential spread of microbial contamination within the orchard:

  • Smooth the orchard floor to eliminate low spots where rain could pool, preventing
    nut drying.
  • Allow a slight crown in the orchard middle to prevent rainfall from draining into windrows.
  • Reduce dust at harvest through proper sweeper-head setting and slower pickup speeds.
  • Develop a farm policy excluding domestic-animal access to the orchard.
  • Assess and mitigate any neighboring animal production operation impacts on orchard food safety.
  • Minimize rodent habitats (nesting and hiding places) near orchards, buildings or
    equipment yards.
  • Identify and document the common and seasonal presence of wildlife near and within your orchard.
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