Understanding Production and Harvesting Costs for Mechanical Harvesting Systems for Pickling Cucumbers

Pickling Cucumber Improvement Committee Meeting Abstract

Ed Kee and James Adkins

University of Delaware

Pickling cucumber producers in Delaware and the Eastern shore of Maryland rely exclusively on mechanical harvesters to harvest the crop. These harvesters are grower-owned and used all season to harvest sequential plantings. Additionally, the grower is responsible for hauling the product to the manufacturer for processing.

The traditional harvester has been the tractor-mounted “Wilde” or “Raven” type that utilizes the pinch roller system to separate the fruit from the vine. In recent years, the pull-type “PikRite” harvester that utilizes the forced balance shaker system to separate the fruit from the vine has become available for use in the region. Growers have indicated a need to better understand and evaluate pickling cucumber production costs, as well as the harvesting costs associated with each type of harvester. In addition, growers expressed a need to evaluate costs associated with various crop share and rental agreements with landowners.

Seed cost is the largest variable cost, typically representing 20 to 25% of all variable costs. Lime and fertilizer costs are similar, with pesticide costs following at 11% of total variable costs. Total variable costs, including irrigation costs and land rent at $150 per acre can range from $240 to $250 per acre.

Fixed cost calculations, which includes investment and depreciation costs for harvesters, range from $134 to $198. The type of harvester is the major variable in this calculation. The higher cost of the “PikRite” harvester increases the fixed costs. However, improved recovery with that harvester improves gross returns to cover those higher fixed costs. The “break-even” point at which improved returns begin to cover those fixed costs is approximately 450 acres.

For further information, contact:

  • 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
  • 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

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