A flue-cured greenhouse with plants nearly ready for setting, near Snow Hill, N.C.
USDA'S INITIAL ESTIMATE
HOW MUCH TOBACCO WILL WE GROW?
In a bit of a surprise, USDA said in its Prospective Plantings Report at the end of March that acreage of the two major tobacco types and most of the minor types would change only slightly from last year. Flue-cured, at 209,000 acres, would be four percent below 2015, according to this projection, while burley, at 79,150 acres, will be up slightly from last year if the projection is correct. Let's hope the projection is close, but industry estimates that have reached this editor's ears suggest a much bigger cut in flue-cured plantings and perhaps no reduction for burley. As to the other types, the report pegged fire-cured tobacco, at 17,350 acres, would be down two percent, and dark air-cured, at 5,950 acres, down four percent. The projection was based on a survey conducted in mid March.
Among the individual states: Flue-cured: NC--160,
The effects of the mid-April freeze were minimal but may have been worst in the Pee Dee area of South Carolina, where most of the state's tobacco is grown. "Only a small percentage of our total tobacco acreage had been transplanted (by April 9)," says William Hardee, S.C. Extension agent for Horry and Marion Counties. "But for some, this will turn out to be a costly incident." Some fields were damaged to the extent that the field will need to be reset completely. "Others just needed to be walked over and re-pegged to replace the dead transplants." The damage seemed worse on the light/sandy soils, Hardee says. That indicates that the cold, hard winds could have been a major contributor to the damage in addition to the low temperatures.
Tennessee burley dodged the bullet. There was some cold weather in east Tennessee at the end of that week of April 9, says Richard Hensley, research associate at the University of Tennessee Research & Education Center, in Greeneville. But all the tobacco was still in the greenhouse at that time. "Growers were able to keep the temperature around 70 degrees," he says. "The only effect that I noticed was that the plants growing close to the curtains now look a little small compared to the ones in the middle of the houses. I think that may be associated with the temperature."
Burley planting may start April 19 in Macon County, Tn., says Keith Allen, County Extension tobacco agent. "Some of our plants have been mowed two or three times and they are ready to go out," he says. "Rains are predicted toward the end of the week. But now it is in the mid 80s, so growers want to get started." This area, east of Nashville, also had cold weather the week ending April 9, he says. "But the low temperature was closer to 40 than freezing." All plants were in greenhouses at the time, and there was no damage.
GAP RECERTIFICATION MEETINGS
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Friday, April 8, 2016
An ample supply of transplants appears on the way in North Carolina. Substantially all the flue-cured greenhouses in N.C. have been seeded now and in most, the plants are up and growing, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. He thinks a few fields would probably have been set at the end of this week, but predictions of very cold weather Friday night and Saturday morning have probably delayed those plans. "Temperatures of as low as 28 degrees have been predicted in east N.C.," he says. "But if the cold doesn't last, we will still be right on schedule for transplanting."
It's been a good greenhouse season so far in southern Virginia, says Chris Haskins of Chatham, about 25 miles north of Danville. "I will have to mow my plants by the end of this week," says Haskins, who grows flue-cured and burley. "They are ahead of schedule now thanks to all the sunshine and warm weather we had in March. We didn't have much wind then, but it is blowing now." He seeded his house on March 8 and plans on starting planting by the end of April, if not sooner.
Burley seeding continues in western N.C. "Greenhouses at the Mountain Research Station at Waynesville were seeded about a week ago," says Vann (on April 5). "The seedlings have gotten off to a good start."
Don't let greenhouses get too cold. "If we can keep to a minimum temperature of 55 degrees, there shouldn't be any cold injury," Vann says.
Guest workers get more expensive: In Kentucky, the H-2A wage rate increased from $10.28 per hour in 2015 to $10.85 per hour for 2016, says Kentucky Extension economist Will Snell. That is 42 percent more than it was at the time of passage of the buyout. Accounting for transportation, housing, utilities, worker compensation insurance, fees and the other expenses associated with H-2A labor, the total 2016 wage rate for the H-2A guest worker program is likely to be in the neighborhood of $13 to $14 per hour, Snell says.
The official average price for the 2015 burley crop will likely be near the 2014 average of $1.94 per pound, Snell says. Prices held up fairly well even though there were several negative factors: Global supplies were ample entering the 2015 season, global blended cigarette sales were slumping, the U.S. dollar was strengthening and there were concerns about crop quality. But those factors were to a degree overcome by relatively strong U.S. cigarette sales, an improved U.S. burley trade balance and concerns over the effect of to El Niño weather patterns on South American and African burley crops.
With some recent U.S. burley prices rising to $2 per pound, it can be said that actual prices are returning to pre-buyout levels. "But real prices adjusted for inflation have declined by more than 20 percent relative to 2004," says Snell.
Be prepared to weed your tobacco by hand if it needs it late in the season, says Matthew Inman, N.C. Extension associate. And be sure to do it in a timely fashion so that you prevent weed seed from going back into the weed seed bank. "If suitable weed suppression has been realized in early and mid-season, weed removal by hand can be accomplished with very little added production cost," he says. "It will also aid in harvest efficiency and will reduce weed seed contamination in cured leaf."
Remember that relying on just one weed management practice is not an effective weed management program, Inman says. "It is best to use all available resources; crop rotation, cultivation, herbicides and hand weeding. Cultivation and herbicides are not perfect, and there are going to be weed escapes." When that happens, the only other option is pulling them by hand. "Doing this in a timely manner can prevent a larger weed problem down the road," he says.
TOBACCO FARMER NEWSLETTER Editor: Chris Bickers | Bickers Editing Service | 903-9 Shellbrook Ct. | Raleigh NC 27609 | 919-789-4631
GAP RECERTIFICATION MEETINGS
For all three Wisconsin meetings, the contact is Bill Maksymowicz at bill.maks @yahoo.com or 615 212 0508.
Sunday, March 20, 2016
A farmer beds his tobacco land before transplanting near Cobbtown,
Ga., on March 18. The season's first plantings reportedly took place
four days earlier in Florida (Photo courtesy of J.Michael Moore).
The first tobacco of 2016 has been planted in Florida and Georgia, beginning on March 14, and land preparation is proceeding at a breakneck pace everywhere else. Higher temperatures than normal for this time of year helped farmers in the Deep South get a good start, says Extension specialist J. Michael Moore stationed in Tifton, Ga. "It was 89 degrees Wednesday. The dogwoods are blooming, the azaleas are out, and our growers want to get their plants in the field."
There will be plenty of Type 14 plants, with probably some excess to sell, Moore says. "We had to commit before contracts were out, and some companies cut back, so we may have seeded more than we will need." Still, for now, Moore is estimating Georgia acreage will be close to last year's 13,500 acres. Florida may fall a bit but he is hoping for 1,000 acres.
No reason to think tomato spotted wilt won't make an impact this season. "We have plenty of weeds, and there are plenty of thrips in those weeds," says Moore. "We have to be prepared for a heavy load of tomato spotted wilt right after transplanting."
Growers in Tennessee began seeding their greenhouses late in February, and now the process is well under way, says Eric Walker, Extension tobacco specialist stationed in Springfield, Tn. Things seem to be going well, but Walker reminds growers to replace EPS trays at least every three years. "These trays can increasingly harbor diseases, such as Pythium, with each additional year of use."
Seeding of dark tobacco in western Kentucky and middle Tennessee started around March 1. "There was not much seeding done at the beginning," says Andy Bailey, Extension dark tobacco specialist stationed in Princeton, Ky. "The bulk went in from about March 15." Plants were just beginning to appear in the earliest seeded greenhouses by the end of this week. "If all goes well, seeding will be finished by early April, with first transplantings around May 1 or as soon as the weather permits."
Much of the Kentucky burley crop remains to be seeded, says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist, but seedlings are already up in some greenhouses. Progress has been good but he is concerned about predicted high temperatures. "Make sure the heat is not excessive in the greenhouse," he advises.
Be sure to keep the temperature in your greenhouses below 90 degrees. The temperature can increase very rapidly on sunny days any time during the production period, says the South Carolina Extension Service.
A "triple option" of black shank control chemicals? The new products Presidio and Orondis Gold along with Ridomil Gold make your choices a little more complicated. "There may well be some farmers who elect to apply a black shank fungicide preplant or in the transplant water, again at first cultivation, and then again at layby," says Charles Johnson, Virginia Extension plant pathologist. "But most will choose to apply a product in the setter water and then another to use in a field spray during cultivation." Ridomil Gold can still be used at any of these three timings. But the Orondis Gold-Ridomil Gold tank mix and Presidio are to be applied only once during a growing season. And Presidio can only be used as an incorporated field spray in 2016.
All three fungicides should provide good to excellent black shank control, says Johnson. "The Orondis Gold-Ridomil Gold tank mix and Presidio have generally shown the best black shank control in field trials over the past several years." Ultra Flourish and MetaStar can be used in place of Ridomil Gold, but keep in mind that the use rates are higher because these products are less concentrated.
Despite the bad weather in 2015, flue-cured grower Mel Ray of Whitesville, N.C., had some fields that yielded 3,000 pounds per acre or more, thanks in part to a new soil amendment product called Quick-Sol. He treated both in the greenhouse and in the field. During the drought, the plants weren't stressed. "Once we got rain, these plants came back, and I think the Quick-Sol helped them hold on and stay healthy," says Ray. For more information, see the Soil and Plant Technology website atsoilplanttech.com.
Editor: Chris Bickers | Bickers Editing Service | 903-9 Shellbrook Ct. | Raleigh NC 27609 | 919-789-4631
BIG M TOBACCO WAREHOUSE
1723 Goldsboro St. SW, Wilson, N.C.,
in the old Liberty Warehouse
|Mann Mullen is the owner of Big M auction warehouse in Wilson, N.C.|
We hold sealed bid auctions
HONEST AND TRUSTWORTHY
We will be GAP certified
Friday, March 11, 2016
Young seedlings were growing well at the end of February on
this farm near Raleigh, N.C.
Seeding wrapped up on March 2 on Tyson Family Farms in Nashville in the Eastern Belt of North Carolina. "In the first greenhouse we seeded, the plants are up," says Sharon Tyson. "We hope to have enough plants for 400 acres." It will be all flue-cured, with perhaps as much as 35 acres organic.
A new burley variety for a niche market: KT 215 features excellent resistance to fusarium wilt and race 1 black shank and was released this year. But only a limited supply of seed was produced and it is already sold out for this season. Adequate supplies should be available for 2017, and it will be a good choice if you are one of the small number of farmers dealing with both those diseases. If you don't have both, you are probably better off planting one of the existing varieties, says Robert Miller, the Kentucky-Tennessee breeder who developed KT 215. That's because unlike most varieties generally planted now, KT 215 has no resistance to potato virus Y, which could become a problem in a hurry.
Where would KT 215 fit best? Miller says you find fields with both fusarium wilt and black shank most often along the Ohio River and in an area of western North Carolina in river bottoms where tomatoes were once grown extensively, which built up fusarium. "It is seldom found in Tennessee," he says.
Grower numbers down in Kentucky: 2,805 farmers grew burley in Kentucky in 2014, according to a report from Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association. That was 448 less than the year before and 560 less than 2012. "These numbers reflect a trend that most likely continued in 2015 and will carry forward for 2016," the report said.
Getting up to grade: Bobby Wellons (right) of USDA-AMS points out key aspects of grading
flue-cured tobacco to Hertford County growers Denton Spruill (left) and Will Hawthorne.
A young farmer and a career educator were honored at the annual "Breakfast with the Commissioner" held by the Tobacco Farm Life Museum on February 5 in Raleigh at the Southern Farm Show. The Innovative Farmer of the Year Award went to Robert Elliott of Cypress Hall Farm of Louisburg, N.C. The Excellence in Agriculture award, sponsored by Wells Fargo, went to Richard H. Linton, Dean of the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences at N.C. State University.
A legendary tobacco agronomist received one of several awards given by the Tobacco Growers Association of N.C. on February 5 at the Southern Farm Show. Distinguished Service Award--Tobacco Agronomist W.K. "Bill" Collins. Extension Service Award--Charles Mitchell, Extension director, Franklin County, N.C. Outstanding Director--Jonathan Renn, Franklin County. N.C. Farm Family of the Year--Hinnant Farms. Lifetime Century Member--Donny McElveen.
TOBACCO FARMER NEWSLETTER
Editor: Chris Bickers | Bickers Editing Service | 903-9 Shellbrook Ct. | Raleigh NC 27609 | 919-789-4631
Friday, March 4, 2016
Quality will definitely determine who gets contracts in the future and who doesn't, says Richard Todd of Wendell, N.C., who farms with his son Joe. "The companies will look at who produces the best tobacco." There are many practices that can help--in recent years, the Todds have gotten a quality boost from some new curing barns. "We bought a World Tobacco barn three years ago (above) and have since bought two more." The best thing about them is the quality of the cure, he says. "That is mainly because of the airflow and the amount of insulation."
Germination delay may occur in greenhouses in some regions of North Carolina, so it might be wise to add fertilizer a few days later than normal. "Standard practice is to
wait seven to 10 days after seeding before adding fertilizer to the floatbed to hedge against injury from soluble salts," says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension specialist. "Waiting until 10 to 12 days is probably not a bad idea, but I would not wait any longer than 14 days--uneven growth could occur, with older seedlings rapidly outpacing the younger ones."
Short volume but better quality: The 2015 burley crop was short, says Steve Pratt, GM of the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Assn. in Lexington, Ky. "We didn't get all the pounds we contracted for. But it was of better than expected quality. Expectations had been low on the early crop because we had a lot of rain. But the weather during curing was good enough that it allowed the leaf to recover." The cooperative will probably start contracting in March and will be looking to sign up about the same volume or a little less than it did a year ago.
Contracting should also start soon for Burley Stabilization Corporation (BSC), the coop in Springfield, Tn. Daniel Green, BSC chief operating officer, says that despite excessiverain growers produced about what had been anticipated. "There was little low quality tobacco in this crop," he says. "It was a bit on the thin side, but is very useable tobacco." There may be a small increase in the coop's contract volume, he says.
Burley decline: 2,805 farmers in Kentucky grew burley in 2014, according to an update from BTGCA that was shared at its annual meeting. That was 448 less than the year before and 560 less than 2012. "These numbers reflect a trend that most likely continued in 2015 and will carry forward for 2016," the update said.
New flue-cured leader: Clay Strickland of Clinton, N.C., was elected president of the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina at its annual meeting in Raleigh, N.C.,on February 5. There will be just one way for N.C. growers to get ahead of the current market, he says, and that will be to produce quality leaf. "The outlook now is not real good, and I have to feel a little pessimistic."
New burley leader: Burley Grower Greg Harris of Richmond, Ky., was elected to a two-year term as president of the Council for Burley Tobacco at its annual meeting. "Insurance fraud, contract uncer-tainty and labor/ immigration are a few of the issues our board has made as priorities for the year ahead," he said. David Chappell, Sparta, Ky., was elected vice president.
Monday, February 8, 2016
Outlook glum: I didn't hear the optimism about contracting volume that I was hoping to at the Southern Farm Show last week. Indeed, some of my most reliable sources were dejected about the prospects. From what I could gather, a reduction in contract pounds of no more than 10 percent would be a moral victory at this point. That's for flue-cured--burley might get treated a little better because of its huge shortfall in 2015, I learned. More on this in my next issue, roughly.
Indirect benefit of lower fuel prices: Since gas prices have dropped by nearly half since last year, consumers should have more discretionary spending money in their
pockets, said Tim Yarbrough of Prospect Hill, N.C., outgoing president of the N.C. Tobacco Grower's Association, at its annual meeting on February 5. "As convenience stores are a major point of sale for cigarettes one pack at the time, so it is reasonable to expect domestic sales for pre-mium brands to see a slight increase. If this holds true, it could be a glimmer of good news for domestic leaf used in premium blended pro-ducts." On the other hand, imported leaf is cheaper with a strong dollar. "So we have to work to market our premium leaf on its merits and the real value of its quality characteristics."
Balancing supply and demand: Universal Corporation George C. Freeman III continues to be optimistic that world leaf supplies are approaching balance with demand. The El Nino weather pattern has reduced crop production levels in Brazil and may also affect African crops, he says. "We believe that production declines resulting from this weather pattern, combined with reduced plantings in some origins, will bring markets largely into balance in fiscal year 2017."
How much of a decline? Universal is now forecasting an 11 percent decline in flue-cured crops produced outside of China in 2016 and a six percent decline in burley crops, compared to 2015.
Insects on organic: If you're setting in a field that is high risk for soil insects, plan on having extra plants, says Hannah Burrack, N.C. Extn. entomologist. "Many new organic tobacco growers are planting in fields that have not previously been in tobacco," she says. "We do not know what the potential is for soil insect damage in these fields, but organic tobacco growers should be aware of potential risk." Fields previously planted in grasses or pasture may especially foster higher wireworm populations, she adds. There are no effective organic insecticides to manage soil insects, so pre-transplant treatment is not recom-mended. "Instead, organic growers planting into recent grass or pasture land should be aware of potential damage and be prepared to fill in plants if necessary to ensure a good stand."
New marketing center in Southside Virginia: The U.S. Tobacco Cooperative has announced it will open a marketing center in La Crosse, Va., this season. It will primarily service the Cooperative's flue-cured growers in Va. and N.C. The 161,250 square foot facility is located near the intersection of Interstate 85 and U.S. Hwy. 58.
The marketing season in the Bluegrass turned out reasonably well. "It was a good marketable crop," says Roger Quarles, a grower from George-town, Ky. "I can't say anyone was really pleased with the season as a whole. 'Relieved' might be a better word." Good tobacco sold at an acceptable price, especi-ally near the end of the season, and although there was an obvious shortfall in yield, farmers seem to have done a little better in filling their contracts than might have been predicted, he said.
Another new float tray steaming unit is on the market this year. Carolina Greenhouses, Kinston, N.C., is selling the Steamerator tray cleaning system. With a capacity of 840 trays, it has doors at each end for loading without driving through. It takes 30 minutes at most to reach a temperature of 176 degrees, and it takes 90 minutes to run a cycle, according to the manufacturer. For more information on the Steamerator, call Carolina Greenhouses at 800-635-4532.
NEW GAP RECERTIFICATION MEETINGS
NORTH CAROLINA (Burley)