Maximum curing efficiency will be just as important for the air-cured types burley and dark air-cured. 

Willis Jepsoof Orlinda, Tenn., who grows dark air-cured and has grown burley, has made significant improvements in his air-curing barns recently to get a more efficient cure.

“We have built four new multi-tier barns in the last few years,” said Jepson. “Each is 48 feet wide and 72 feet long. They hold five acres, with sheds on either side of the main alleys, two sheds per barn. There are three tiers in the sheds and five in the main alleyways.”

The barns are wood frame and have doors all the way around the bottom. “They draw real well,” he said.

Compared to his old barns, the vertical spacing has been extended between tier poles to five feet apart, to improve air flow.

 “In our old barns, the tier poles are three feet apart,” he said. “That's too close. We had to leave one tier out for adequate air circulation.”

Another addition to his curing program in recent years is a new stripping room that is closer to his  barns for added efficiency. It is heated and has more space to work. But it doesn't have humidity control. “We spray water over-top if we have to,” he said.

The changes in design he has made on his dark new air-cured barns would be equally applicable to structures for burley, and in fact Jepson could use these barns for burley if he were so inclined.

But that is not likely, he said.

“We grew one crop of burley after the buyout, and we didn’t do well with it,” he said. “We had a chance to go up on dark air-cured plantings the next year, and we decided to stop growing burley at that time.”

In 2012, his farm had a total of 85 acres of tobacco — 55 of dark air-cured and 30 of fire-cured — along with substantial acreages of corn, soybeans and wheat.

One thing that won't change: Because delivering his contracted pounds is so important, Jepson doesn’t feel he can rely on rainfall to produce his crop.

“We've had to irrigate every year since 2007 except for 2009,” he said. “We use hard-hose reel, and we draw water from the nearby Red River.”

Curing efficiency and irrigation are the two areas the Jepsons have really concentrated on in recent years because they affect yield so much, he said.

chrisbickers@gmail.com