Arborist Expert Witnesses Opine on Damage to Fruit Trees During Harvest on Commercial Farm


Arborist Expert WitnessThis case involves a dispute between a large scale fruit grower and beekeeping company, and a processing company that was contracted to execute harvesting operations. During the first harvest that the processing company executed for the grower, an abnormally large portion of the grower’s trees were damaged and killed, impacting the grower’s ability to produce fruit at profitable levels in future seasons. Initially, the use of RoundUp Mosanto at a nearby agriculture plot was believed to be the cause of the damage, but further investigation ruled out the possibility. It was alleged that the processing company, which used a widely accepted harvesting technique that involved shaking the trees, was negligent in that they shook the trees too hard. As a result, and abnormally high number of trees were damaged during the harvest, and the beekeeping portion of the company’s business was impacted by the reduction of trees requiring fertilization.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please explain your expertise pertaining to the harvesting fruit.
  • 2. In your opinion, how many trees is an acceptable amount to be damaged per harvest?
  • 3. Are you aware of the typical or industry accepted number of damaged trees per harvest?

Expert Witness Response E-012576

Expert-ID: E-012576

I grew up on a family-owned diversified farming operation that featured fruit production. I was involved in every aspect of production, especially irrigation management and harvest operations for many years. I still own an orchard that I farm regularly. I chose to focus my education on agricultural production with a particular emphasis on crop production, irrigation and drainage management, and nutrient interactions in agricultural systems – I hold a BS, MS, and PhD in those areas. I have been consulting in the agricultural arena in California, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Montana, Oregon, and other western US states for nearly 20 years. I’ve also worked in the West Bank, Jordan, Egypt, and Turkey. Much of this involved tree production in various forms.

Expert Witness Response E-014493

I have a lot of experience when it comes to fruit harvesting, specifically mechanical harvesting as is discussed here. I have dealt with damage to trees due to operator error, as well as those associated with mechanical issues. There are numerous causes that can lead to trunk damage on trees, such as: clamp pressure, timing, RPM of shaker, the pressure of the hydraulic system, the type and amount of weights inside shaker, damage on pad slings, type of water, operator mistake, and many others. After trunk damage occurs, treatment is necessary or else the tree might die. If the damage is relatively small, a tree can generally heal after 3 to 6 years. If damage is widespread, even with treatment, this tree will continually produce less and possibly die.

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