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Grapevines Need A Gentle Trim? Call Robo Pruner


Developments to Watch

GRAPEVINES NEED A GENTLE TRIM? CALL ROBO-PRUNER

Tending a vineyard isn't just sunny-day work. Even before the snow melts in such grape belts as upstate New York, vines must be pruned to ensure an optimum harvest. It is the most labor-intensive vineyard chore--or will be until researchers at Cornell University finish their new robot.

Pruning vines has proved a tough job for robots. The vine has "tortuous bends and crooks," notes Cornell professor emeritus of agricultural engineering Wesley W. Gunkel, whose team has developed a sophisticated vision system. One video-camera eye nods up and down, while a second scans back and forth, to help a computer keep trimming shears a safe distance from the main stalk. Although the robot hasn't ventured out yet, manufacturers are interested, says Gunkel--probably because 33 years ago, another Cornell group uncorked the widely used mechanical grape harvester. Now, the pruning robot will be mounted on the harvester's chassis.EDITED BY OTIS PORT


The Aging of Abercrombie & Fitch
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