Bull. Spec. CORESTA Congress, Brighton, 1998, p. 88, A1

Synergistic automation in Burley harvesting and market preparation

University of Kentucky, Dept. of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Lexington, KY, USA.
An automated harvesting system has been developed and tested for whole-plant harvesting of burley tobacco. An experimental prototype of this two-worker system has achieved a capacity of 0.12 ha (0.3 acre)/hour at a relatively low field efficiency of 33%. Elimination of operator errors and simple malfunctions of the stalk feeding mechanism could increase field efficiency to 50% and harvesting capacity to 0.2 ha (0.5 acre)/hour. However, the substantial projected capital cost of this system, vis-a-vis current alternatives, has thus far prevented its commercial adoption. While the major advantage of automated harvesting is the reduction of manual labor (155 worker-hours/ha), an even greater opportunity exists for the automation of market preparation which currently requires over 200 worker-hours/ha in burley. Research is in progress at the University of Kentucky to develop mechanical system to remove cured leaves from whole plants and separate them into at least three grades or types. The design capacity of the system is 2 plants per second. A computerized analysis has been conducted to determine the comparative costs of various harvesting/market preparation systems for burley tobacco. A synergistic benefit is demonstrated when automated systems are utilized for both harvesting and market preparation which should enhance the commercial adoption of both systems.