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Today also those countries boasting a century-old olive growing tradition have to look at the latest, most dynamic, non labour-intensive olive growing systems to abate production (notably, harvesting operations) costs and remain competitive in a globalized market. This is why over the last few years super intensive olive orchard cultivation has been attracting a lot of interest on the part of olive growers all over the world as it accounts for an innovative model whereby olive groves are tailored to the special needs of grape harvesters. This paper reports the first results of experimental mechanical harvesting tests in a super-intensive olive cultivation. The study is intended to explore both productivity and work capacity of two of the most commonly used grape harvesters, Grégoire G120SW and New Holland Braud VX680, in a view to assessing their harvesting performance by a series of tests conducted in Spain. On the basis of the tests it was possible to verify that the machines are able to detach the almost all the drupes (more than 90%), with one only passage, and this independently of both size and location of drupes on the tree crown and of their maturity stage. Using these machines, two people can often carry out the whole harvest process: an operator driving the harvester and another person transferring the fruit from the harvester in the field to the olive oil mill for processing. With this system, the work speed is usually, in the best working conditions, about 1.7 km/hour and the average harvesting time is about 2.5-3 hours/ha. For the time being it is however impossible to draw definitive conclusions in terms of performance of the above cultivation systems and harvesting machines. Additional key observational studies are needed in the years to come to assess the efficiency of the entire model.
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