Evaluation of a mechanical burley harvesting system in France
A mechanical burley harvesting system will be used to harvest approximately 29 ha at 20 locations in France during 2011. The locations were selected from several geographic locations in France and encompass growers from four production cooperatives, Nord et Loire Tabac, Perigord Tabac, Midi Tabac and Tabac Garonne Adour. The harvesting system was initially developed by the University of Kentucky Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering Dept. and is manufactured and marketed by GCH International, Inc. with headquarters in Louisville, KY (USA). The system has been operating in U. S. since 2004 with approximate operating capacity of 0.2 ha/hr and annual production of 35 ha. The system detaches, inverts and cuts notches in mature plants, then places them into slotted receivers mounted in portable steel curing racks. Each rack holds approximately 450 plants and is equipped with folding legs for support. Racks are unloaded in the field when filled while stacks of 5 empty racks are loaded onto the harvester as needed. Filled racks are eventually removed from the field to a convenient location and covered with waterproof material after 7 to 14 days of exposure to outdoor conditions. Burley cures in the racks without further attention within 6 to 8 weeks.
Operational data will be collected and analyzed to determine the efficiency and productivity of the system in France. Pertinent dimensions (length, width, row spacing, in-row spacing, plant density) will be recorded for each field harvested. Harvesting operations will be observed and time-and-motion data will be recorded. Time required for each operation (harvesting, turning, unloading and loading) will be recorded as well as time required for stoppages due to malfunctions, refuelling, repairs, adjustments, etc.
The effects of field geometries, plant factors and other conditions upon operational capacity and efficiency of the system will be reported. Special attention will be given to describing factors that can be managed by growers to maximize harvester capacity and efficacy.