Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Cotton Ginning Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #302409

Title: Mechanizing chile peppers: Challenges and advances in transitioning harvest of New Mexico's signature crop

item WALKER, STEPHANIE - New Mexico State University
item Funk, Paul

Submitted to: HortTechnology
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/28/2014
Publication Date: 6/30/2014
Citation: Walker, S., Funk, P.A. 2014. Mechanizing chile peppers: Challenges and advances in transitioning harvest of New Mexico's signature crop. HortTechnology. 24(3):281-284.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: New Mexican-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 integral to the state's culture and economy. Lack of a predictable labor supply and higher input costs have prompted industry interest, as well as affiliated research projects, in mechanical harvest. The history and ongoing challenges in mechanizing this crop mirrors those faced by many other horticultural crops produced in industrialized societies. The red chile crop has mainly transitioned to mechanical harvesting. However the green chile crop continues to be hand-harvested. 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. With support from the New Mexico State University Agriculture Experiment Station and 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 Research Laboratory (Mesilla Park, NM). This work has 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' works in identifying the optimal picking head and development of an efficient mechanical de-stemmer have bolstered these efforts.