Mechanized onion harvesting generating interest - The Packer

Mechanized onion harvesting generating interest

05/31/2011 03:07:00 PM
Fred Wilkinson

Crop damage is not a big problem, Franzoy said.

“When everything works perfect, there’s no more damage,” he said. “You do it in boxes now, and it’s very gentle way to do it. When we watch everything, there’s very little damage.”

But, he said, mechanized harvesting works best with hardier onions, Franzoy agreed.

“That’s another reason we don’t do a sweet onion, because they’re softer,” he said.

There are skeptics, where machine harvesting is concerned.

“Based on what I’ve seen over the last few years, it’s highly unlikely to be successful,” said Jamie Hooper, general manager of Las Cruces, N.M.-based Charles Johnson Co.

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South Texas  |  May, 31, 2011 at 07:20 PM

If mechanical harvesting is "highly unlikely to be successful", what is the likely future of growing onions that must be hand clipped in the U.S.? Do we believe that we will see people in the near future on their knees in the fields clipping U.S. onions? I don't, and if I couldn't machine harvest my onions in the near future, I would get out of the sweet onion business as far as growing them in the U.S.

Rob Hinnant    
Vidalia Ga  |  June, 01, 2011 at 04:30 PM

SGE has mechanical harvesters running in New Mexico and South Texas. Mechanical harvesting is possible but like mechanizing anything else, you have to adapt to it. It can be done with specialized equipment, we offer custom built equipment that is specialized for the sweet variety onions, but will also work well on the short day and long day varieties. If you are ready to mechanize your harvest SGE can offer solutions.

Neil Bushong    
Yuma,AZ  |  June, 02, 2011 at 05:05 PM

I believe that mechanical harvest will be the only way the U.S. grower will be able to compete will cheap labor in other countries. We see the same trend in the Imperial Valley and San Joaquin Valley of California. The varieties will become the more mechanical specific and growers will tend to change their plantings over accordingly. Enza Zaden has very firm onions with some being sweet, depending on the growing areas.

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