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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Cotton Ginning Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #257941

Title: Pepper Harvest Mechanization: Past and Present

item Funk, Paul

Submitted to: HortScience
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/23/2010
Publication Date: 8/23/2010
Citation: Funk, P.A. 2010. Pepper Harvest Mechanization: Past and Present [abstract]. HortScience. 45(8).

Interpretive Summary: The presentation given at the Annual Conference of the American Society of Horticultural Science reviewed pepper and chile production trends, justifying the need for harvest mechanization research. Forty-five years of various experimental and commercial pepper harvest machinery were summarized and the forces that have driven- and limited- mechanization over the past 45 years were discussed. It was informative to connect the two professions of horticultural science and agricultural engineering. Plant breeders and extension agents recommending production practices benefited from understanding the unique requirements that come with mechanical harvest.

Technical Abstract: Peppers (Capsicum spp.) include a diverse collection of cultivars produced for a wide variety of end uses. Labor for hand harvest is as much as half of the cost of production. There have been attempts to mechanize pepper harvest since 1965, yet many segments of the industry still depend on hand labor - which is becoming increasingly expensive and scarce. Over fifty articles covering forty-five years of research and development pertaining to pepper harvest technology were reviewed. Prior efforts resulted in mechanical harvest technology for select cultivars. Mechanization adoption has been slow for several reasons: many markets require a product free of pedicels and calyxes, and destemming has not yet been automated; fruit size and shape varies greatly between cultivars, and harvest timing and fruit succulence varies by end use, so no one machine can pick and clean all types effectively; and labor is still cheap an available in other parts of the world where peppers can be produced. Plant breeding objectives and crop production practices resulting in tough, round fruit dispersed high on a single stalk would facilitate mechanization. The ideal harvester would be both aggressive enough to remove all fruit and gentle enough to damage none while also completely separating leaves and branches. Processing plant modifications would include color sorting and destemming machinery. Describing where pepper harvesting technology has been, what major breakthroughs have occurred, and what is the current status of the science equips researchers in various disciplines with the basic understanding needed to make advances in their respective fields that will facilitate pepper harvest mechanization.