Innovation in Harvesting Mesquite Pods

Liz Pluto, Jacob Chinn photo

Mesquite trees not only decorate the UA campus, they also provide tasty bean pods that can be harvested and used for cooking.

However, when the trees bloom in the summer, they drop their pods. This not only litters the campus but also ends the opportunity to harvest the pods, because once they are exposed to the ground they can develop life-threatening aflatoxin, a metabolite of certain fungi.

Now, the UA Office of Sustainability has partnered with the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture to create an efficient, net-based system to passively gather the pods. A universal net was designed that can mold to each tree, collecting most of the pods as they fall.

The system minimizes the effort involved in harvesting while also reducing the risk of aflatoxin.