CORESTA Congress, Paris, 2006, APOST 15

Evaluation of a mechanical market preparation system for Burley tobacco

University of Kentucky, Dept. of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Lexington, KY, USA.
A mechanical market preparation system has been designed and fabricated at the University of Kentucky. The system cuts cured plants into 4 segments to facilitate removal and separation of leaves into 4 grades. Two workers manually feed plants into a hopper at approximately 3 plants per second. Plants are indexed at the upper end of stalks to reliably retrieve the desirable tip leaf grade. The points of segmentation can be adjusted at any time to achieve optimal leaf grade separation. Leaves attached to stalk segments are trapped between flexible moving belts and removed. Leaves are thus separated from stalks and conveyed to 4 separate compartments and compressed into approximately 1 m3 bales. Stalk segments are conveyed to a separate collection bin for disposal. The system is designed to process cured Burley at approximately 0.2 ha/hr. The system is currently being tested via utilization of approximately 1.6 ha of cured Burley that is currently in storage at the University of Kentucky. Preliminary evaluation of the system throughout 2006 will identify needed refinements and modifications prior to the 2006 Burley marketing season in the U.S. The system will be extensively evaluated during 2006 by Phillip Morris USA Production Expansion Program (PEP) growers. We will report on system performance parameters, including: processing capacity (ha/hr), material loss ratio (kg leaf loss/ kg leaf baled), operational efficiency (time operating/ total time), reliability (time lost due to breakdowns and malfunctions/ time operating), etc. Philip Morris USA has funded the development of this system.