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Once-Over Mechanical Harvesting of Several Leafy Greens for Processing

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  2007 ASAE Annual Meeting  071140.(doi:10.13031/2013.22918)
Authors:   James L Glancey
Keywords:   Mechanical Harvesting, Vegetables, Small Greens

Several leafy greens are grown in the Mid-Atlantic region for processing (freezing) including spinach, kale, turnip greens, mustard greens and collards. Although production of these specialty crops has been mechanized, current production costs are high, especially harvesting. In addition to high maintenance costs associated with the machines currently used for harvesting, in-field losses often exceed 20% of the yield. To address these limitations, a study was initiated to understand the once-over harvest characteristics of these crops and to develop a more cost effective harvesting system. In a commercial bed production setting, yield and plant architecture were measured for five different small greens. Using a harvester equipped with a new band saw-type cutting mechanism, harvest recovery characteristics were measured for each of these crops during the first cutting of the season. On average, harvest loss was lowest for spinach averaging about 10% of the yield. Collards exhibited the poorest recovery characteristics with losses averaging more than 20% of the yield. In general, losses during harvest correlated very well with the size of the plant leaf suggesting that a single harvester for all small greens may not be economically viable. Comparison of two spinach varieties (smooth vs. semi-savoy leaves) commonly grown for processing revealed nearly identical recovery characteristics.

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