Yield and Quality of Machine Harvested Red Chile Peppers

in HortTechnology
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  • 1 Current address: U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center, USDA-ARS, P.O. Box 4459, Hilo, HI 96720-0459.
  • | 2 Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, MSC 3Q, Box 30003, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM 88003-0003.
  • | 3 Current address: P.O. Box 301, Honomu, HI 96728-0301.
  • | 4 USDA-ARS, Southwestern Cottoning Ginning Research Laboratory, P.O. Box 578, Mesilla Park, NM 88047.
  • | 5 New Mexico Chile Task Force. Department of Extension Plant Sciences, MSC 3AE, Box 30003, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM 88003-0003.

In the southwestern U.S. growing region, which includes southern New Mexico, west Texas, and southeastern Arizona, mechanical harvest of chile peppers (Capsicum annuum) is increasing because of the high cost of hand labor. Mechanical harvesters have been developed, but there is limited information on the performance of chile cultivars when machine harvested. Four red chile pepper cultivars (New Mexico 6-4, Sonora, B-18, and B-58) were grown in a farmer's field near Las Cruces, N.M., and harvested in October 2000 using a double-helix-type harvester. Ethephon was applied 3 weeks before harvest at 1.5 pt/acre (1.75 L·ha-1) to promote uniform ripening. Ethephon caused fruit of `B-18' and `B-58' to drop before harvest, thereby affecting yield results. Treatment with ethylene-releasing compounds is not recommended for these cultivars. `Sonora' and `New Mexico 6-4'dropped much less fruit than `B-18' and `B-58' after the ethephon treatment. Dry weight marketable yield ranged from 1419 to 2589 lb/acre (1590.5 to 2901.8 kg·ha-1), and total yield potential (discounting dropped fruit) ranged from about 2500 to 3100 lb/acre (2802.1 to 3474.6 kg·ha-1), depending on cultivar. Harvest efficiencies of 73% to 83% were observed among the cultivars. Trash content of the harvested chile varied from 25% to 42% of dry weight. Trash was predominantly diseased and off-color fruit, leaves, and small stems. Trash content was highest for `Sonora'. `New Mexico 6-4' had the greatest marketable yield and harvest efficiency among the cultivars evaluated in this study.

Contributor Notes

corresponding author (mwall@pbarc.ars.usda.gov)