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  • Author or Editor: Larry D. Godsey x
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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.

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In 2004, a nationwide survey of chestnut (Castanea spp.) producers in the United States was conducted. Results show that the U.S. chestnut industry is in its infancy. The majority of chestnut producers have been in business less than 10 years and are just beginning to produce commercially. Volume of production is low (<1.5 million lb). U.S. chestnut producers are mainly part-timers or hobbyists with small, manually harvested operations. The majority of respondents sell fresh chestnuts. Demand exceeds supply, and prices often exceed $3.50/lb. Barriers to success in the chestnut business include the lack of information for producers, retailers, and consumers, 5- to 10-year time lag to get a return on investment, and shortage of available chestnut nursery stock of commercial cultivars. There are also concerns related to pest and disease control and market uncertainties. Lengthy quarantines for cultivars from other countries and lack of chemicals registered for use with chestnuts can also be considered barriers to success. Chestnut grower associations, universities, and state and federal agencies must join their efforts to fund and support chestnut research and industry development.

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Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinus edodes) have many nutritional and medicinal benefits. The cultivation of log-grown shiitake mushrooms encourages forest farming and can be an opportunity for farmers interested in developing an additional enterprise. In 2006, the University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry conducted a nationwide survey of shiitake mushroom producers to analyze the U.S. shiitake mushroom industry by taking into consideration the forces that influence competition based on Porter's five forces model. Shiitake mushrooms are grown primarily as a side business, especially those produced exclusively outdoors. Indoor production on sawdust generates higher income than outdoor production on logs, but log production is more suitable for a small-scale operation in an agroforestry setting. Barriers to entry are created by relationships in the market, economies of scale, and the learning curve effect. Although there are a limited number of spawn suppliers in the market, they produce quality inoculum and maintain good relationships with shiitake mushroom producers. The majority of respondents sell their shiitake mushrooms locally. Gourmet restaurants, farmers markets, and on-farm outlets are the main markets for shiitake mushrooms. Trends in demand are increasing and prices are high. Shiitake mushrooms can be replaced with other common or gourmet mushroom types, but also have their own identity for numerous nutritional and medicinal properties. Competition for log-grown shiitake mushrooms arises from shiitake mushrooms produced on sawdust and from imports. To successfully survive in the market, firms create competitive advantages through quality, customer service, and consistent supply. Barriers to success in the shiitake mushroom business include demanding work requirements, the need for a serious commitment to produce and market shiitake mushrooms, a 1-year time lag between investment and a return on investment, and insufficient production and marketing information. Grower associations, universities, and state and federal agencies must join their efforts to fund and support shiitake mushroom research and industry development.

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