Evaluating and Improving Mechanical Harvest Systems in Delaware

Pickling Cucumber Improvement Committee Meeting Abstract

James Adkins and Ed Kee

University of Delaware

The tractor-mounted “Wilde” or “Raven” type of pickling cucumber harvester has been the standard machine in Delaware and the eastern shore of Maryland for 30 years. A harvester improvement program funded by grower support was initiated in 1997. In 1998, the “PikRite” harvester began to be utilized by some growers.

With the appearance of the “Pik-Rite” harvester in the region, it was agreed with the growers to gather some base-line data on the relative effectiveness of that harvester in comparison to the standard harvester in 1999 and 2000. In addition, the tractor-mounted harvester improvement program was implemented for testing under commercial conditions in 2000.

Fifty-nine comparative test runs between each machine were conducted over 9 days. The “Pik-Rite” machine recovered 47 more bushels per acre than the tractor mounted machine in 1999. In 2000, the tests were replicated 14 times, with the Pik-Rite averaging 9 bushels per acre of improved recovery. Economic analysis between the two machines that included capital costs, operating costs, maintenance costs, and recovery was conducted and revealed that approximately 450 acres is necessary to justify the higher expense of the “Pik-Rite” machine when comparing the cost of new equipment in both cases.

The University of Delaware tractor-mounted research harvester operated in commercial fields to gather base line data on recovery and damage. This data will serve as a starting point for design changes. Growers identified four areas of major concentration: Improve recovery, minimize cut and broken pickles, eliminate dirt, and reduce scratches and abrasion. Specific design changes were identified for each priority and will be tested in 2001 and 2002.

For further information, contact:

  • Mr. James Adkins, Extension Associate
    • Bioresource Engineering
    • University of Delaware, RD 6, Box 48, Georgetown, DE 19947
    • Telephone: 302-856-7303; Fax: 302-856-7303
    • E-mail: adkins@udel.edu
  • Mr. Ed Kee, Extension Vegetable Crops Specialist
    • University of Delaware
    • RD 6, Box 48, Georgetown, DE 19947
    • Telephone: 302-856-7303; Fax: 302-856-1845
    • E-mail: kee@udel.edu

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