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Big machine helps in orchard replant

Dan Wheat

Capital Press

It's the time of year tree fruit orchards are being replanted and expanded. The big AGCO TerraGator is being used in micromanagement of fertilizer applications in replanting, a task it once only did for row crops.

QUINCY, Wash. — A behemoth mosquito. An aircraft that’s too heavy to fly. The wing span — check that — boom span is 70 feet.

It’s an AGCO TerraGator that covers a lot of ground quickly when it comes to applying fertilizers, protective farm chemicals and nutrients.

One was helping prepare 60 acres of orchard replanting for Stemilt AgServices, of Wenatchee, a few miles west of Quincy the morning of March 27.

Buoyed by good returns the last several years, Washington’s apple industry is adding acreage and replanting older orchards with newer varieties, newer strains of old varieties and at higher densities.

The same day Jesus Limon was planting 75 acres south of Quincy with rootstock for Honeycrisp and Adam Glory, a new club variety of Domex Superfresh Growers of Yakima.

Limon lives in East Wenatchee between his orchards in Quincy and Orondo. “Little guys have to get a little bigger or get run out of the business,” he said.

Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith and Fuji had been grown at the 60-acre orchard Stemilt AgServices manages for a client. Those trees were removed last fall, the ground was recently fumigated and Honeycrisp will be planted by May 1, said Scott Driscoll, Stemilt AgService’s Quincy area manager.

Beside replanting that orchard, the company is planting 200 acres of new orchard in Mattawa, said Andy Gale, manager of Stemilt AgServices.

The TerraGator is just one tool in the many stages of tearing out an orchard and planting another one. The TerraGator in the Stemilt field was operated by CHS SunBasin, of Quincy. It made short work of things.

TerraGators have been built for 41 years but have been improved and can apply up to six products at one time. They can be programmed to apply different products at different amounts to the half acre, said George Smith, crop consultant with CHS SunBasin.

“It’s soil election. We’ve done it for years on potatoes and carrots but in the last year or so it’s being used more with alfalfa, corn and in pre-planting orchards,” Smith said. “We do a lot of it for C&O Nursery for their nursery stock.”

Soil is sampled every half acre, fertilizer recommendations are prepared for each and programmed for the machine, he said. The TerraGator can apply cover crops like wheat and grass with fertilizers, he said.

CHS SunBasin has three TerraGators at its Quincy operation, Smith said. The company also operates out of Moses Lake, Othello and Royal City.


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