Research Article: The times, movements and operational efficiency of mechanized coffee harvesting in sloped areas

Date Published: May 28, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Tiago de Oliveira Tavares, Bruno Rocca de Oliveira, Vantuir de Albuquerque Silva, Rouverson Pereira da Silva, Adão Felipe dos Santos, Estela Silva Okida, Abel Chemura.


Coffee farms have been adopting the microterraces system, a technique that reduces the effect of the slope by moving the soil between the crop lines. In this way, all the mechanized operations can be carried out normally, except for harvesting, due to the work limitation of the harvesters, who work in areas with a maximum slope of 20%. One option is to use unilateral harvesters, which crop one side at a time; however, there has been no research on these microterrace machines to evaluate their performance and to compare it with those of the other harvesting methods in those regions. This study aimed to compare the mechanized harvest performance in the microterraces with the manual and semimechanized harvesting methods. The study was carried out in an agricultural area of the municipality of Ouro Fino / MG, Brazil, in a crop production site where the microterraces were built six years before the experiment. The treatments were assigned to a split-block design with seven repetitions and consisted of mechanized harvest—unilateral harvester with bag storage; manual harvest—regionally experienced workers; and semimechanized harvest—with portable breakers. Through an analysis of the times and movements, the operational efficiency and operational and effective field capabilities were measured. The adoption of microterraces allows the efficient mechanization of areas previously impossible to mechanize. The unilateral harvester is a potential tool for the partial replacement of manual labor in the harvest, performing a service equivalent to that of 23.68 manual workers and 10.55 manual workers in the semimechanized system.

Partial Text

Coffee is one of the main crops produced in Brazil and is mainly concentrated in the southeast region. The domestic production of coffee accounts for 30% of the world’s production and is the sum of the other six major world producers; thus, coffee is important for the Brazilian economy. In addition, Brazil is the second largest consumer market behind the United States [1].

No specific permissions were needed to access the experimental sites because all activities were performed under the supervision of the advisor of the thesis, and did not involve threatened or protected species.

S2 Table shows that the operational efficiency (time efficiency) of the treatments varied from 61.54 to 79.93% and that the mechanized and manual harvests presented the best averages in relation to the semimechanized harvest, which presented a decrease in operational efficiency on the order of 17.84% and 20.01% when compared to those of the manual and mechanized harvests, respectively. The lowest average operational efficiency observed in the semimechanized harvesting occurred due to the actual harvesting time, which was reduced due to the faster fruit rotting, and the time spent changing the harvesting canvas, cleaning and transporting the coffee had a lower yield per time, which was equivalent to that of the manual harvest.

Despite the need for transferring and sweeping during the harvest and postharvest operations, respectively, mechanized harvesting is preferable, even in sloping areas, because it presents a significantly higher operational capacity than the semimechanized and manual treatments. The reduced time and increased efficiency will improve other operations.