If burley tobacco can be successfully cured at high density under waterproof covers in the field, a producer can expand production without the necessity of building new curing barns and can thereby more easily justify investment in the automated burley tobacco harvesting system (Wells et al., 1990a, b). Curing under waterproof covers in the field and curing on frames in the barn were evaluated over three curing seasons using two varieties (KY 14 and TN 86), two plant densities (32 and 43 plants/m2, 3 and 4 plants/ft2), position of tobacco on the frame (four levels ranging from edge to center) and stalk position (bottom, middle and top). Conventionally cured tobacco was used as the standard of comparison and grade index was used as the assessment of quality.

Averaged over a three-year period, burley tobacco cured in the field over sod and under waterproof covers and conventionally cured tobacco were of equal quality (56.0 and 55.8 grade index, respectively) and were both superior to tobacco cured on frames in the barn (52.0). During the dry curing season, burley tobacco cured under the covers had a higher grade index (54.9) than that cured conventionally (43.5) or on frames in the barn (43.7) but during the moderately wet and wet curing seasons, conventionally cured burley tobacco had a higher grade index (62.3 and 61.5, respectively) than that cured under covers (58.9 and 54.2, respectively) or on frame in the barn (59.0 and 53.4, respectively). During the wet curing season, leaf tips near the sod in the field and near the concrete in the barn cured dark red resulting in a lowered grade index. Burley tobacco from the automated harvesting system is better cured outside under waterproof covers than cured in a barn.

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Published in Applied Engineering in Agriculture, v. 7, issue 2, p. 230-234.

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This research was funded in part by Philip Morris, USA.

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The investigation reported (Paper 90-2-60) is in connection with a project of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station and is published with the approval of the Director of the Experiment Station.