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  • Author or Editor: Charles Havlik x
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New Mexico green pod-type chile (Capsicum annuum) has significant importance as a vegetable crop. The cultivation and trade of New Mexico pod-type green chile are culturally significant within New Mexico (USA) and contribute to the state’s economy by providing income and employment to farmers and through supporting industries. However, because of the high cost and limited availability of labor, New Mexico pod-type green chile acreage has declined. Traditionally, New Mexico pod-type green chile is hand-harvested when the fruit are full-size but physiologically immature. To preserve and expand the production of New Mexico pod-type green chile, the adoption of mechanical harvest technologies is essential. In 2015 and 2016, experiments were conducted at New Mexico State University’s Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center (Los Lunas, NM, USA) to examine the effects of increased planting density on New Mexico pod-type green chile fruit size, plant architecture, and mechanical harvest efficiency. Two commercial New Mexico pod-type green chile cultivars, NuMex Joe E. Parker and AZ-1904, were direct-seeded on 17 Apr 2015 and 14 Apr 2016. On 11 Jun 2015 and 14 Jun 2016, three plant density treatments were implemented at 39,000 (high), 23,000 (medium), and 15,000 (standard) plants/acre. Before harvest, plant measurements, including height, width, height to first bifurcation, stem diameter, and number of lateral basal branches, were obtained. Plots were mechanically harvested using an inclined double helix harvester, and harvested material was sorted into marketable green fruit, machine-broken fruit, and nonpod plant material. Fruit measurements, including fruit weight, width, length, pericarp thickness, and number of locules, were obtained. Both cultivars exhibited a 9% increase in height to bifurcation accompanied by fewer basal branches grown at high density. Plant density did not significantly affect the fruit length, width, number of locules, and pericarp thickness. Plants grown at high density had an increased percentage of marketable fruit, with ‘NuMex Joe E. Parker’ having a higher percentage of marketable green fruit compared to ‘AZ-1904’. The results demonstrated that an increase in planting density in production fields to 39,000 plants/acre coupled with cultivar selection enhanced efficiency in a mechanical harvest system.

Open Access