Submitted to: Applied Engineering in Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/10/2010
Publication Date: 12/8/2010
Citation: Funk, P.A., Walker, S.J. 2010. Evaluation of five green chile cultivars utilizing five different harvest mechanisms. Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 26(6):955-964. Interpretive Summary: The chile pepper specialty crop is important across the Southwest, especially to New Mexico, where a large value added industry (processing and marketing) contributes substantially to the state economy. Domestic production of chile has decreased despite a 50% increase in U.S. consumption. Harvest mechanization is necessary to compete with lower wage countries. Mechanization is especially challenging with green chiles, because product damage is unacceptable. Experiments conducted in 2008 identified a potential mechanical harvester suited to the green chile crop.
Technical Abstract: High cost and unavailability of labor for hand harvest has resulted in domestic green chile production declining even as consumption grows. Mechanization is clearly necessary, but has resisted four decades of research and development. In these trials five picking mechanisms were tested in five cultivars in two fields in New Mexico in 2008. Harvest efficiency was 41% to 88%, with 11% to 48% mechanical damage, for a net collection of marketable fruit that ranged from 26% to 78% of total yield. An inclined counter-rotating open-helix design with a low relative tip speed and a clear product path had both the highest harvest efficiency and lowest fruit damage.