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  • Author or Editor: Tracy Wootten x
  • HortTechnology x
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The vegetable industry is important to our nation as a provider of nutritious and safe food directly consumed by our citizens. It is also critical to a rich and vigorous national agriculture. During the 20th century, engineering innovations coupled with advances in genetics, crop science, and plant protection have allowed the vegetable industry in the U.S. to plant and harvest significantly more land with higher yields while using less labor. Currently, fresh and processed vegetables generate 16% of all U.S. crop income, but from only 2% of the harvested cropland. Yet, many of the challenges in production that existed a century ago still exist for many crops. Perhaps the most significant challenge confronting the industry is labor, often accounting for 50% of all production costs. A case study of the mechanized production system developed for processed tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) confirms that systematic methodology in which the machines, cultural practices, and cultivars are designed together must be adopted to improve the efficiency of current mechanized systems as well as provide profitable alternatives for crops currently hand-harvested. Only with this approach will horticultural crop production remain competitive and economically viable in the U.S.

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