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Michele R. Warmund, Andrew K. Biggs and Larry D. Godsey

The time required to harvest and field sort chinese chestnuts (Castanea mollissima) with two types of paddock vacuums and with a manual nut-harvesting tool was compared. Pickup time for harvesting chinese chestnuts was faster with a small paddock vacuum (Paddock Vac) than with a manual nut-harvesting tool (Nut Wizard), but field sorting plant material and soil, as well as movement of the small vacuum, was time-consuming. With minor equipment modifications to facilitate sorting, harvest time for a larger paddock vacuum (Maxi Vac) was 2 seconds faster per nut than that for the manual nut-harvesting tool. Economic analyses revealed that the larger modified vacuum also reduced labor costs by $237 when the wage rate was low ($8 per hour) and with total production at 1000 kg. However, with the lower equipment cost, the manual nut-harvesting tool was more economical to use than the modified paddock vacuum, with $8 per hour labor costs and <6370 kg of harvested chestnuts. As labor costs and nut production increased, it was more economically efficient to use the modified paddock vacuum as compared with a manual nut-harvesting tool. At $10, $12, and $15 per hour labor, the modified pasture vacuum was the lowest cost method of harvesting chestnuts at yields >4555, 3466, and 2510 kg, respectively. Thus, the modified pasture vacuum may provide a relatively inexpensive method for new, small producers to mechanize chestnut harvest.