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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Cotton Ginning Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #295258

Title: Chili peppers: Challenges and advances in transitioning harvesting of New Mexico's signature crop

item WALKER, STEPHANIE - New Mexico State University
item Funk, Paul
item HERBON, RYAN - New Mexico State University
item UCHANSKI, MARK - New Mexico State University

Submitted to: Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/1/2013
Publication Date: 7/24/2013
Citation: Walker, S.J., Funk, P.A., Herbon, R., Uchanski, M. 2013. Chili peppers: Challenges and advances in transitioning harvesting of New Mexico's signature crop. Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science. Available:

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: New Mexico-type chile (Capsicum annuum L.), often referred to as ‘Anaheim’, is the signature crop of New Mexico. Both the red and green (fully sized, but physiologically immature) crops are celebrated in local cuisine, culture and art, and production and processing of chile is an integral contributor to the state’s economy. Although the red chile crop has mainly transitioned to mechanical harvest, the green chile crop continues to be hand-harvested. Lack of a predictable labor supply and higher input costs have prompted industry interest, as well as affiliated research projects, in green chile mechanical harvest. The history and ongoing challenges in mechanizing this crop mirror those faced by many horticultural crops produced in industrialized societies. Mechanizing the green chile harvest has been difficult because of a low tolerance for damaged fruit, and stem removal is a critical quality and safety concern. In addition, although New Mexico-type green chile is an important crop to New Mexico, the total acreage in the United States is too low to attract research and development investment by large agricultural equipment companies. With support from the New Mexico Chile Association, a consortium of growers and industry representatives, research efforts have been conducted by agricultural engineers and horticultural scientists from New Mexico State University and the USDA-ARS Cotton Ginning Laboratory (Las Cruces, NM). Efforts have focused on identifying cultivars with superior mechanical harvest efficiency, breeding to develop cultivars improved for mechanization, and crop management strategies to maximize the process. Agricultural engineers’ efforts in identifying the optimal picking head and development of an efficient mechanical destemmer have bolstered these efforts. This presentation will discuss the history, ongoing research efforts, and continuing challenges in the mechanization of green chile harvest and destemming in New Mexico.