Mechanical aids to sweet potato harvest
APPROXIMATELY 9,000 acres of sweet potatoes are grown annually in California, with Merced County accounting for more than 60 per cent of this total acreage. Fresno, Stanislaus, San Joaquin, and Kern counties grow the remaining 40 per cent of the acreage. The average yield of marketable roots is low—from 4.5 to 5.0 tons per acre. In the past, the farm family grew the crop with members of the family providing the necessary labor to produce and harvest. Individual growers are now increasing their sweet potato acreage, thereby replacing a number of the farm family units. The development of mechanical harvest aids has contributed to the change to larger acreages. This tractor-drawn mechanical harvester digs and conveys the roots past four or five people on the trailer unit who snap the roots from the stems and place them in boxes. The stems, cull roots, and trash drop back onto the ground at the rear of the harvest-aid machines. Space is provided on this aid for several pallets, on which empty and full boxes can be stacked.