How a Bean Picker Works
Mechanical bean pickers use a picking reel that looks a lot like a hay rake. It is a cylinder that rotates one direction, combing the beans off the vine and onto a conveyor belt. The beans are then conveyed into the rear of the machine, past one or two powerful cleaning fans that vacuum out any stems or leaves, blowing the refuse out the side of the picker. Cleaned beans are then delivered to the hopper or rear bagger. A Pixall one row will pick 1.5 bushels per minute in a good stand. The larger self propelled machines will pick much more.
Since the entire crop is picked at the same time, maturity has to be even. Modern varieties mature at or near the same time, and set the crop in a way that enables machines to pick more efficiently. These modern varieties are not genetically engineered, they are selectively bred and are chosen based on taste, nutrition and harvestability. You probably already grow many of these varieties in your home garden and don’t realize it.
Damage vs. Crop left in the Field
Using “mule trains” to harvest will save you the cost of a machine and they will pick cleaner beans. On the reverse side, many, beans will get left in the field, in some cases, because there was not enough time to pick them, or they were just missed by the picking crew. Hand picking is slow and requires more people to do the same job as a machine. Produce is time sensitive. Hand picking crews usually will not work in dark or wet conditions. Humans sanitary problems are increased 100 fold by using hand picking crews. Machines are always dependable, always productive. Hand picking crews go where the work is. If there is not enough work in an area to keep them busy, they will move on.
Any damaged beans are generally removed in the culling process and losses are miniscule compared to increased productivity. Bottom line, the producer sells more beans.
On Our farm we firmly believe “waste not, want not”. We strive to make the most of available resources and to produce food that is clean and undamaged. That said, a crop left to go bad is a crop wasted.