Mechanical hedging is a form of non-selective pruning, which has been demonstrated to reduce labor hours in commercial orchards. Mechanical hedging is particularly suitable for modern tree fruit orchards that are planted medium to high density using dwarfing rootstock and fruiting wall architecture training systems.
Mechanical hedging can reduce the need for summer hand pruning, but also serves to sculpt a preferred narrow and open canopy suitable for other mechanized management practices such as mechanical harvest. Some hand pruning may still be necessary if long branches persist within the row outside of the hedger path.
Though popular in European orchards, mechanical hedging is not yet widely used in the United States and is being studied for labor efficiency and effectiveness on different apple bearing habits.
Based on preliminary research at WSU Mount Vernon NWREC, the average time to hedge both sides of a single row can be approximately twice as fast as hand pruning. See footage of hedging our research orchard for the second year in a row here: Mechanical Orchard Hedging 2020 (Video).