The Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department continues to provide technical support to tobacco growers, Extension Agents, and the tobacco industry related to engineering and mechanization problems. With the widespread adoption of mechanical harvesting, bulk curing and mechanized leaf handling systems, many growers today only touch the tobacco plant during transplanting and topping/suckering operations. These mechanization efforts combined with many agronomic improvements have significantly decreased the labor requirements for tobacco.
The fuel and electrical energy requirements during curing is a major production cost of flue-cured tobacco. Also, tremendous uncertainty still remains concerning future energy prices. Evaluation of new technologies to assist with improving the energy efficiency of existing curing barns continues to be a major focus area. Additionally, renewable energy technologies are becoming more available, reliable and affordable. Existing energy saving technologies that have been discussed in the past have become more economically appealing.