Submitted to: HortTechnology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/2/2002
Publication Date: 6/20/2003
Citation: Wall, M.M., Walker, S., Wall, A.D., Hughs, E., Phillips, R. 2003. Yield and quality of machine harvested red chile peppers. HortTechnology. 13(2):296-302. Interpretive Summary: In the southwest U.S. growing region, mechanical harvest of chile is increasing because of the high cost of hand labor. Mechanical harvesters have been developed, but there is limited information on the performance of chile cultivars when machine harvested. The yield, harvest efficiency, and fruit quality of four red chile cultivars (used for paprika or mild red chile powder) were determined following mechanical harvest in southern New Mexico. The experiment was conducted on a grower's field near Las Cruces, N.M., and industry cooperators contributed harvesting and processing services. A fruit ripening agent was applied to the field, but caused fruit drop for two of the cultivars (B-18 and B-58), and is not recommended for these varieties. Harvest efficiencies of 73% to 83% were observed among the cultivars. A common local variety (New Mexico 6-4) had the greatest marketable yield and harvest efficiency among the cultivars evaluated in this study. These results were achieved using existing varieties, standard cultural practices, and minimal cleaning equipment. Machine performance was satisfactory and did not appear to limit harvest efficiency. The current focus of researchers and industry groups is on improving cleaning equipment, optimizing crop management, and breeding cultivars for mechanical harvest.
Technical Abstract: In the southwest U.S. growing region, which includes southern New Mexico, west Texas and southeast Arizona, mechanical harvest of chile peppers (Capsicum annuum) is increasing because of the high cost of hand labor. Mechanical harvesters have been developed, but there is limited information on the performance of chile cultivars when machine harvested. Four red chile pepper cultivars ('New Mexico 6-4', 'Sonora', 'B-18' and 'B-58') were grown in a farmer's field near Las Cruces, N.M., and harvested in Oct. 2000 using a double-helix-type harvester. Ethephon was applied 3 weeks before harvest at 1.75 L ha-1 to promote uniform ripening. Ethephon caused fruit of 'B-18' and 'B-58' to drop prior to harvest, thereby affecting yield results. Treatment with ethylene-releasing compounds is not recommended for these cultivars. The cultivars 'Sonora' and 'New Mexico 6-4' dropped much less fruit than 'B-18' and 'B-58' after the ethephon treatment. Dry weight marketable yield ranged from 1591 to 2902 kg ha-1, and total yield potential (discounting dropped fruit) ranged from about 2802 to 3475 kg ha-1, depending on cultivar. Harvest efficiencies of 73% to 83% were observed among the cultivars. Trash content of the harvested chile varied from 25% to 42% of dry weight. Trash was predominantly diseased and off-color fruit, leaves, and small stems. Trash content was highest for 'Sonora'. 'New Mexico 6-4' had the greatest marketable yield and harvest efficiency among the cultivars evaluated in this study.