A Cost-Effective Mechanized System to Benefit the Sustainability of Local Organic Vegetable Production

  • Wilhoit, John (PI)

Grants and Contracts Details


Market vegetable growers face many challenges in achieving a sustainable level of economic viability in their farm operations, most notably the very high time/labor requirements. Mechanization can improve labor efficiency significantly, but economics of scale is required to justify the costs of mechanization, and most market growers are too small. The higher prices paid for organic produce can help organic vegetable producers be more profitable and expand operations to tap into lager institutional markets, but there are additional challenges with organic production, especially for weed control since the use of herbicides is prohibited. We have developed a low-cost, mechanized machine system that specifically addresses the challenges of small-tointermediate scale organic vegetable production. This wide-stance, three-wheeled machine uses furrow guidance to give repeated precision in machine positioning throughout the course of the production season, making it very useful the mechanical cultivations needed for weed control in organic vegetable production. Furrow guidance also frees up the driver to accomplish other tasks, which can significantly improve labor efficiency in smaller scale operations with very few workers. We propose to conduct onfarm trials using this system to grow several organic vegetable crops at Erik Walles’ farm in Fayette County, Kentucky. These trials will be used to quantify the costeffectiveness of of the system in small scale organic vegetable production. A field ay will be conducted at his farm to introduce the system to growers and others involved in market vegetable production. The system will also be used to grow two organic vegetable crops at the University of Kentucky Horticulture research farm. Plans for the machine system will be posted on-line so that growers can build their own machine, or hire someone else to build it for them.
Effective start/end date3/15/153/14/16


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