45th TWC, Tob. Work. Conf., 2012, abstr. 28

Mechanical harvesting of burley tobacco in France

(1) University of Kentucky, KY USA; (2) Association Nationale Interprofessionnelle et Technique du Tabac (ANITTA), France; (3) GCH International, Inc., KY USA

A GCHI ‘Gold Standard’ burley tobacco harvesting system, including a harvester and 800 curing racks, was purchased by the Nord and Loire Tabac Cooperative and operated at 22 locations in France in 2011. The Tabac Garonne Adour, Perigord Tabac and Midi Tabac Cooperatives purchased an additional 400 curing racks and participated in the evaluation of the GCHI system. Jean-Luc Goudouneche (ANITTA) organized and supervised a comprehensive evaluation of the GCHI system at 22 locations, spanning western France from the Loire valley to the Pyrennes and east to Clermont-Ferrand. Harvesting operations began in early August and ended in mid- September. The GCHI harvesting system employs a fully-automated, self-propelled harvester operated by one worker. Mature burley plants are harvested and placed into steel curing racks at a density of 43 plant/m2. Five empty racks are loaded onto the harvester by a second worker operating a ‘tele-handler’ or similar loader/transporter. The nominal operating capacity in the USA was measured as slightly greater than 0.2 ha/hr. Time-and-motion data were collected during operations from August 10 to August 25. Data was collected at eight (8) locations at which 11 ha of burley was harvested. Data was collected during filling of 203 of approximately 320 racks filled at these locations. Mean harvesting capacity was 0.178 ha/hr, ranging from 0.222 ha/hr to 0.129 ha/hr. On average, the harvester placed plants into racks during 47% of total operation time. Thus, 53% of operation time was spent turning between rows, discharging filled racks, loading empty racks, correcting malfunctions, making repairs, refueling, etc. During 10 hours of operation, the system harvested 1.78 ha using 2 workers; a task that would require nearly 27 workers to complete using current conventional harvesting methods in France. The results also showed that the harvesting rate can be increased by improving field layout and using experienced loader operators. (Reprinted with Permission)