Economic analysis of a one-person mechanized harvest system for Maryland tobacco
The length of time was measured for one person to harvest and barn Maryland tobacco using a partially mechanized system where stalks were cut mechanically, plants were speared onto sticks, sticks were loaded onto beams in the field, and beams were hung in a barn with a cable-hoist system. The average time to complete these tasks was 71.3 hours/hectare. Using this estimate along with historical weather data, it was determined that one person could harvest and barn 4.5 hectares of tobacco three out of every four years without additional help. The length of time required to take down and bundle this tobacco was calculated to be 20.2 hours/hectare. Using a partial budget analysis, it was estimated that the mechanical, beam and cable-hoist system was slightly more expensive than a conventional, all manual labor system. When labor costs were estimated at $7.50/hour, net income for 4.5 hectares of tobacco was reduced by $816 (7% loss) when the mechanical system was used compared to the conventional harvest system. When labor costs were estimated at $9.50/hour, net income was reduced by $462 (4% loss). Many farmers in Maryland have stopped producing tobacco because of the difficulties in obtaining labor for harvesting their crop. In these cases, the reduction in net income by the mechanical harvesting system may be justified if it allows farmers to continue to produce tobacco.