Source: WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY submitted to
ASPARAGUS TECHNOLOGY AND PRODUCTION, WA
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
TERMINATED
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Annual
Accession No.
0206733
Grant No.
2006-34451-16882
Project No.
WNP00638
Proposal No.
2006-06031
Multistate No.
(N/A)
Program Code
RN
Project Start Date
Jul 1, 2006
Project End Date
Jun 30, 2009
Grant Year
2006
Project Director
Clary, C. D.
Recipient Organization
WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY
240 FRENCH ADMINISTRATION BLDG
PULLMAN,WA 99164-0001
Performing Department
HORTICULTURE & LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE
Non Technical Summary
Federal Government actions and the advent of various trade agreements have placed the Washington/Oregon and Michigan asparagus industries at a competitive disadvantage in international and domestic markets. If the U.S. asparagus industry is to insure a competitive position, it must substitute technology for labor and shift the workforce to value-added employment.
Animal Health Component
50%
Research Effort Categories
Basic
15%
Applied
50%
Developmental
35%
Classification

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
5031430106025%
5031430202050%
7011430200025%
Goals / Objectives
1. Improve the productivity of asparagus fields, to reduce the costs of production per pound through alternative production and harvesting (mechanical) scenarios using less labor or using labor more efficiently. 2. Reduce the repetitive nature of spear selection that now takes place numerous times from the harvest crew through fresh packing or processing asparagus. 3. Develop new and more efficient methods of handling asparagus from harvest through fresh packing or processing with less labor and new technologies including alternatives to the current 20 pound lugs (boxes) used for transport; employing portable hydrocooling units; equipment (optic scanners) to automate color, size, and texture grading; and filling and processing of frozen or pickled asparagus. 4. To evaluate the antioxidant activity in asparagus as a function of variety and harvest time from a selected site in the Columbia Basin asparagus growing area. 5. To identify the major antioxidant compounds in asparagus. 6.Ensure that laboratory procedures known to affect spear shelf-life and quality are sufficiently robust and reliable for commercial adaptation. 7. Continue to investigate the ability of chitosan and its derivatives to suppress tiprot and basal decay. 8. Continue to examine several commercial and laboratory prepared edible coatings to determine the benefit to asparagus quality. Coatings that exhibit a beneficial effect in quality would be tested for phenolics. 9. Investigate the relationship between tiprot and the levels of sugar, carbohydrate, Ca, Mg, and other minerals in asparagus. Continue to experiment with simple addition of these nutrients to asparagus and monitor changes in asparagus quality. 10. Expand the use of pallet-size modified atmosphere liners to include several packinghouses and document the effects on asparagus quality. 11. Continue to test new modified atmospheric (MA) materials on asparagus as they become available. 12. To evaluate the shelf life of fresh asparagus spears packed in a PP pouches and PP trays having holes and without holes which were stored in different temperature: 5 10 degrees C. This examination will use weight lost and sensory testing to evaluate. 13. Determine the antioxidant levels of fresh asparagus at each condition in #1. 14. Evaluate whether spray-bars improve removal of sand from simulation runs of asparagus. 15. Evaluate whether spray-bars improve removal of sand from commercially produced asparagus.
Project Methods
An Industry Advisory Group was established and has provided inputs in the direction of the overall project. The special grant proposal consists of a multidisciplinary team of scientists. The basic procedures or techniques used in the economic aspects of the overall project consist of harvester field research trials and partial budgeting techniques, time and motion analysis, and an economic engineering approach. Various technologies and their economic benefit will be investigated. The work in advanced processing technologies for asparagus by Foods Science and Human Nutrition and Biological Systems Engineering will explore the antioxidant activity on an asparagus variety basis. A chemical analysis will be conducted to determine major antioxidant components. The procedures that are described in the Horticulture and Landscape Architecture proposal will include further research on edible coatings and modified atmosphere techniques in addition to other shelf-life treatments from harvest until terminal markets. The Michigan State University project will evaluate the effectiveness of spray bars on sand removal of asparagus. After initial treatments a commercial application will be conducted.

Progress 07/01/06 to 06/30/09

Outputs
OUTPUTS: In the spring of 2009, a selective mechanical asparagus harvester built by Kim Haws of Agri Trac Corp of Mesa, WA was evaluated. This harvester utilizes a set of picking wheels stacked horizontally on a common shaft. Each picking wheel is associated with a sensor at the front of the header. When an asparagus spear of appropriate height is detected, the picking wheel in that lane is actuated and cycles through a sequence of capture and cut. The captured asparagus spear is delivered to a conveyor and carried upward into the machine to a grading belt. The evaluation spanned June 4 through June 16, 2009. Experimental plots consisted of 6 mechanical harvester plots (replications) and six hand harvested plots in a field located in NE of Pasco, WA. Over this 13 day period, the harvester recovered and average of 82% of what hand crews harvested. Economic evaluations are underway to determine the significance of this harvester efficiency. Earlier economic models indicated that an efficiency of 70% would prove the harvester economical. New economic analyses are underway. Considering the poor performance of previous harvester configurations, this has been a banner year for the development and adoption of mechanical harvesting of asparagus. The Haws harvester perform flawlessly from a standpoint of field durability. This machine, unlike others, harvests a 10ft wide swath of asparagus. This presents the option of planting 10ft beds of asparagus compared to traditional beds that are 12inches wide on 40inch row centers. Traditional plantings require row spacing so workers have access. Adoption of a10ft bed would increase asparagus crown density by more than 100% which would increase harvester field efficiency significantly. A key harvesting strategy introduced this year was operating the harvester twice daily which also increased efficiency. PARTICIPANTS: Clary, C. D., Fellman, J. K., PI's; Read, C.M., Associate in Research; Schrieber, A., Washington Asparagus Commission; Cavalieri, R. P., Director, ARC TARGET AUDIENCES: Nothing significant to report during this reporting period. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: Not relevant to this project.

Impacts
The U.S. asparagus industry is facing increased competition from foreign producers. The actions of the Federal Government such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Andean Trade Pact have placed the Washington/Oregon and Michigan asparagus industries at a competitive disadvantage in international and domestic markets. If the U.S. asparagus industry is to insure a competitive position, it must substitute technology for labor to lower per unit costs and shift the workforce to value-added employment. Instituting new technologies is imperative for the advancement of the industry now that the wage rate is indexed by the CPI-W in Washington.

Publications

  • No publications reported this period


Progress 07/01/07 to 06/30/08

Outputs
OUTPUTS: In the spring of 2007, two selective mechanical asparagus harvesters were evaluated: (a) A single-row pull-behind asparagus harvester prototype developed by Geiger Lund Harvesters, Stockton, CA and (b) a single-row tractor-drawn harvester prototype under development by Oraka Developments LTD from New Zealand. The Geiger Lund harvester did not perform sufficiently to warrant further support and testing. The asparagus industry requested further evaluation of the Oraka harvester in 2008 in Pasco, WA. This harvester utilizes a horizontal and vertical moving cutter and pickup system which cuts one spear at a time and delivers the cut spear to a conveyor for collection. Improvements targeted faster operation of the pickup mechanism in efforts to increase field efficiency. The asparagus growers were particularly interested in the on-machine grader as well. In order to pre-test the harvester, a researcher from WSU and the research chair of the Washington Asparagus Commission traveled to New Zealand for the harvest in November 2007. Review of harvester operation in "shop" conditions indicated significantly faster harvester head operation. However, software problems precluded field testing in a New Zealand asparagus field. Oraka proceeded with modifications so the harvester could be tested in Pasco, WA starting in May 2008 during the Washington asparagus season. The modifications were not completed in time to test in Pasco. Planning is underway to possibly retest in New Zealand in November and/or testing in Pasco, WA in April 2009. PARTICIPANTS: Dr. Carter D. Clary, Washington State University, PI; Chris M. Read, Washington State University, Graduate Student; Dr. John K. Fellman, Washington State University, Co-PI; Dr. Joseph R. Powers, Washington State University, Scientist; Dr. Kirk Dolan, University of Michigan, Scientist. TARGET AUDIENCES: Asparagus growers, industry, and consumers in the states of Washington and Michigan. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: Added Oraka subcontract with USDA permission.

Impacts
The U.S. asparagus industry is facing increased competition from foreign producers. The actions of the Federal Government such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Andean Trade Pact have placed the Washington/Oregon and Michigan asparagus industries at a competitive disadvantage in international and domestic markets. If the U.S. asparagus industry is to insure a competitive position, it must substitute technology for labor to lower per unit costs and shift the workforce to value-added employment. Instituting new technologies is imperative for the advancement of the industry now that the wage rate is indexed by the CPI-W in Washington.

Publications

  • Clary, C.D., T. Ball, E. Ward, S. Fuchs, J.E. Durfey, R.P. Cavalieri, and R.J. Folwell. 2007. Performance and economic analysis of a selective asparagus harvester. ASABE Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 16(5).


Progress 07/01/06 to 06/30/07

Outputs
OUTPUTS: In the spring of 2007, two selective mechanical asparagus harvesters were evaluated. A single row pull-behind asparagus harvester prototype developed by Geiger Lund Harvesters, Stockton, CA was calibrated in the Stockton area (Phase I) and evaluated in Pasco, WA (Phase II). The harvester head employs parallel pairs of counter-rotating "rollers" that engage asparagus spears that have reached a specified height. As the machine moves down the row, the optical system senses a spear of the selected minimum height and actuates a cutting system that drives the closest blade into the soil at the base of the spear. The spear is pulled through counter-rotating rollers onto a backstop and conveyer that transports spears to the rear of the machine. Economic analysis indicates that a three-row harvester must recover 70% of hand-harvested yield to be viable. Although the Geiger Lund machine exhibited good reliability from the standpoint of mechanical operation, collateral damage to the asparagus beds was extensive. The result was a decline in yield with an efficiency ranging from 20 to 60% compared to hand-harvesting. The other harvester was only evaluated during Phase II in Pasco, WA. Oraka Developments LTD from New Zealand tested a pull-behind selective mechanical harvester that utilized a horizontal and vertical moving cutter and pickup system cutting one spear at a time and delivery of the spear to a conveyor for collection. This year Oraka has also been able to add one of their grading machines on the harvester as well. So this machine will mechanically harvest and sort the asparagus directly in the field. Once the Oraka machine was calibrated, its recovery was 80 to 100% compared to hand-harvesting. Due the early development stage of this harvester, it performed at a slow rate of <1 mph. PARTICIPANTS: Dr. Carter D. Clary, Chris M. Read TARGET AUDIENCES: Asparagus Industry

Impacts
IMPACT: The U.S. asparagus industry is facing increased competition from foreign producers. The actions of the Federal Government such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Andean Trade Pact have placed the Washington/Oregon and Michigan asparagus industries at a competitive disadvantage in international and domestic markets. If the U.S. asparagus industry is to insure a competitive position, it must substitute technology for labor to lower per unit costs and shift the workforce to value-added employment. Instituting new technologies is imperative for the advancement of the industry now that the wage rate is indexed by the CPI-W in Washington.

Publications

  • Clary, C.D., T. Ball, E. Ward, S. Fuchs, J. E. Durfey, R. P. Cavalieri and R. J. Folwell. 2007. Performance and economic analysis of a selective asparagus harvester. ASABE Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 16(5)