Location: Cotton Ginning ResearchTitle: A systems approach to chile harvest mechanization Author
Submitted to: International Journal of Vegetable Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/10/2010
Publication Date: 6/29/2011
Citation: Funk, P.A., Walker, S.J., Herbon, R.P. 2011. A systems approach to chile harvest mechanization. International Journal of Vegetable Science. 17:296-309. Interpretive Summary: Cooperative research between the Agricultural Research Service, New Mexico State University and the New Mexico Chile Association continues investigations that began in the mid 1960's. Mechanization of green chile harvest remains elusive because each component of the system must be in place before the system will function. Meanwhile, production continues to go overseas, to the detriment of a crop that has tremendous cultural as well as economic significance in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. This is the first comprehensive review article to pull together publications from diverse fields of science that address this common problem. Findings that were consistent from decade to decade and place to place are summarized in this manuscript. It is intended to serve as a common point of reference for the interdisciplinary team collaborating on a problem of great interest to our region; we endeavor to retain domestic production of America's favorite condiment.
Technical Abstract: This article reviews nearly half a century of published research on harvest mechanization of C. annuum var. annuum cultivars, focusing on chile for canning and fresh markets. At present, most of the crop is still harvested by hand, displacing production to locations where labor costs are low. Mechanizing chile harvest will require a systems approach integrating research in plant breeding, production practices, and harvester and processing plant machinery design. Cultivars need to be selected for high, more determinant fruit set, low attachment force, and increased fruit wall toughness. Production practices need to be modified to cause the development of tall, well rooted plants with minimal branching. Harvest machinery needs to be developed that is at once aggressive enough to remove almost all fruit and gentle enough to damage none. And processing plant equipment needs to be developed to handle fruit that may have more foreign matter, may come with stems still attached, and may arrive in large batches. A fully mechanized harvest will not be possible until each part of the system is in place.