Cassava Harvesting – by machine or hand?

One of the most versatile plants in the world is the starchy root of the cassava plant. In the United States, cassava is known as tapioca, a thickener used instead of cornstarch. In developing countries the root is a main source of carbohydrates. The demand for this plant is growing and it has become necessary to find a way to harvest it in large quantities. Using a mechanical cassava harvester can do the work in half the time of doing it by hand, but it is tricky because the root can be easily damaged, shortening its shelf life. Harvesting by hand is time consuming and cannot meet the demands of the public.


In the past the cassava root was pulled from the ground by hand, making it very labor and time intensive. The problem with the use of a mechanical harvester has been that it was too easy to damage the root. Eventually a mechanical cassava harvester was developed that was able to harvest one to two rows of cassava plants without excess damage to the roots. The cassava harvester has two parts. The first is a scoop that digs the root out and puts it on a grating. Here the dirt clods are broken up and the plant is prepared to be picked up by a conveyor belt. Several machine manufactures have figured out the correct angle of the digging tool to do the work without injuring the root. This equipment works best in loose loamy soil. Most of the cassava harvesters need a medium size tractor for pulling it across the ground. Several of these machines can also harvest other tuber plants like potatoes and carrots.


The need for swift harvesting of the cassava root is necessary to meet worldwide demand. In eastern countries roots are not only used for food, but for making paper, cloth and many other items. A few folks have used it to make alcoholic beverages when it is fermented. One odd quality to this root is that it cannot be consumed raw since it contains quantities of cyanide which can be easily cooked out of it. The world’s developing countries use this root as a base of their food needs, as well as a part of making paper and textiles. Using a mechanical cassava harvester has the potential of increasing production and profits for the farmer and worth looking into as an addition to the farmer’s tools of his or her trade.

Written by Staff Writer Dec 2012