Sunday, May 21, 2017

REPORTS FROM THE TOBACCO FIELDS

Transplanting flue-cured near Nashville, N.C. [File photo by Chris Bickers]


VIRGINIA--In the Virginia Piedmont, rains were hit and miss last week, Lunenburg County Extension agent Lindy Tucker said, "Farmers received some more rain this week (ending May 14). Hay land needs it, but crop producers wish it would hold off until tobacco is finished." But the tobacco planting is making good progress. Statewide, about 31 percent of the flue-cured had been transplanted by mid-May, compared to 12 percent of the burley crop and 19 percent of the small dark fire-cured crop.
NORTH CAROLINA--Transplanting of flue-cured was 73 percent complete by mid May, according to the USDA Progress Report. Moisture conditions varied: In Robeson County, transplants have suffered from rains, strong winds and cool temperatures, said Mac Malloy, Robeson Extension agent ... In Craven County, excessive rain fall of three to five inches saturated the soil and leached nutrients. Producers working to make nutrient adjustments. Approximately five percent of tobacco production will likely need to be transplanted again. Tomato spotted wilt evident in many tobacco fields, ranging from two to 10 percent common, said Craven County Extension agent Mike Carroll...But the weather was drier than expected last week in Greene County, allowing many farmers to catch up with planting. "I anticipate all tobacco growers to be finished early this week," says Roy Thagard, Greene County Extension agent.
SOUTH CAROLINA--The last nine percent of the S.C. crop was planted the week ending May 14, says the USDA Progress Report says. In the Pee Dee, the major tobacco-growing area, cooler daytime temperatures, lower humidity and an adequate supply of rainfall have led to tobacco growing well in Horry County, said Extension agent Hilda Shelley. The recent rains were very welcome in this area, which had been very dry though much of April.
GEORGIA--Planting is complete. In Candler County, near Savannah, it is a little dry, and a lot of farmers are waiting for some moisture. "Tobacco looks fair," said Chris Earls, Candler County Extension agent. Some replanting was reportedly continuing.
KENTUCKY--Tobacco setting is moving forward steadily, says USDA's Prog-ress and Condition Report. Tobacco transplant supplies were reported as one per cent very short, three percent short, 89 percent adequate, and seven percent surplus, the report says. Twelve percent of tobacco transplants were under two inches, with 37 percent between two to four inches, and 51 percent over four inches. Just over 10 percent of the crop had been planted by mid May.


In other tobacco news:

Never use your tobacco sprayer to spray herbicides on pastures, says Tennessee agronomists. "Pasture herbicides are very difficult to wash out of sprayers," they says. "Because of the sensitivity of tobacco to pasture herbicides, chemicals such as 2.4-D can cause serious damage." If you have pastures to spray, have a dedicated sprayer for them.

Control weeds at layby. As disrupted as weed control may have been to this point, this might be a good year to make a layby herbicide application, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. The options for herbicide application at layby on N.C. flue-cured are:
  • Prowl H20 or 3.3EC band applied to row middles. "It must be kept off tobacco leaves due to residue concerns," says Vann. Apply after layby cultivation.
  • Devrinol 50DF or 2XT band applied to row middles. Apply after layby cultivation. Rates are two to four pounds, ai/acre. Use higher rates to provide longer residual control, but be aware drift to smallgrains is a concern.
  • Aim EC must be applied with a shielded sprayer at layby or post directed under the canopy at first harvest. Keep the material off the tobacco to prevent serious injury. Aim offers no residual control, and if Palmer amaranth or other pigweeds are more than four inches tall, control will be very poor. "I would expect decent control of morningglory," he says.
Given the concern placed on weed seed contamination in tobacco exports, it is critical that extra focus is placed on weed control management at all stages of this crop, says Vann.

DATES TO REMEMBER
  • June 6, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Georgia On-Farm Safety and Compliance Training Event Check-in begins at 8 a.m. Daniel Johnson Farm, 2747 Daniel Rd., Alma, Ga. Pre-registration encouraged. Contact Amy Rochkes. Phone: 865.622.4606 Ext. 107. E-mail: arochkes@gapconnections.com.
  • June 8, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. South Carolina On-Farm Safety and Compliance Training Event. Check-in begins at 8 a.m. Martin Johnson Farm, 2384 Golden Leaf Rd., Galivants Ferry, S.C. Pre-registration encouraged. Contact Amy Rochkes. Phone: 865 622 4606 Ext 107. E-mail: arochkes@gapconnections.com.
  • June 12-14, Georgia Tobacco Tour. Monday, June 12, 7 p.m. Kick-Off Supper at Johnson's Pond House in Blackshear, Ga. Tuesday, June 13, 7:30 a.m. Leave from Quality Inn/Suites for farm visits. End for the day in Tifton, Ga. Wednesday, June 147:30 a.m. Leave Hampton Inn to visit Coastal Plain Experiment Station, Tifton, and Florida tobacco producers. The tour will end near Live Oak, Fla. For more information contact J. Michael Moore, at 229-392-6424 or www.Georgia Tobacco.com.

Friday, May 5, 2017

BURLEY MAKES ITS WAY TO THE FIELD

Burley transplanting in a conservation tillage field in 
Kentucky (file photo by Bob Pearce).

.
In Kentucky, transplanting is just getting started, with perhaps one percent of the acreage planted, says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. "Just a few crops have been planted, and I doubt any of them are very far along." He expects setting to get in high gear the second week of May.

It's very unlikely there will be a shortage of burley transplants this year. Farmers had to start seeding greenhouses before contracts had been offered, and some have ended up with more than were actually needed, says Pearce.

How many acres? Pearce is skeptical about the USDA's March 31 estimate of 65,000 acres of burley in Kentucky this year, seven percent more than 2016. "I think that it is overly optimistic," he says. He calculates that planted burley acreage in the state will be similar to last year.

In Tennessee planting is also just getting started, with at most two percent set, says Eric Walker, Tennessee Extension tobacco specialist. Rains expected the middle and end of this week might slow things further. Farmers who manage to miss those rains can probably get started, he says. Others may have to wait for the ground to dry up.

In Georgia and Florida, the crop is completely transplanted except perhaps for some stragglers, says J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco specialist. "There is a little replanting going on," he says. It was extremely hot the last two weeks, with air and soil temperatures in the 80s, and the stems of many small plants dried at the soil line and fell over. That will probably take up every available plant in the two states, says Moore. "But I think we will get planted everything the farmers intended."

Well under five percent of the Georgia-Florida flue cured crop is showing symptoms of tomato spotted wilt which is less than was expected, considering the warm winter and abundance of rain. "Our growers were intense in their use of Actigard and imidacloprid," says Moore. "That probably was a factor." But TSWV could still appear. "We can't be sure we have dodged that bullet," he says.

In South Carolina, the Pee Dee got plenty of rain in late April, but it was not a big problem. Since the area had been dry, the rain was welcome and benefited crops. Transplants are starting to take root nicely.


In North Carolina, 38 percent of the flue-cured crop had been transplanted by May 1. But progress varied widely between individual counties. Approximately 70 percent of the tobacco crop had been set before the rain event in Lee County, says Extension agent Zachary Taylor. "Leaching adjustments will be needed. Weed control will be a concern as many PRE herbicides have likely leached"...In Craven County, only a small per- centage of tobacco had been transplanted, so the impact was small, says Extension agent Mike Carroll.


In Virginia, only three percent of the state flue-cured crop had been transplanted by May 1, according to NASS. About one percent each of the burley and fire-cured had been transplanted...In Brunswick County, the heavy rain last week slowed down planting and left standing water in ditches and fields, says County Extension agent Cynthia Gregg. "Some producers were able to get back to planting tobacco, and others started planting tobacco this weekend."


In other tobacco news:

When making a leaching adjustment, consider using fertilizer sources absent of phosphorus, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "Phosphorus is not very leachable in the soil profile," he says. "Therefore it is likely that the nutrient is still in place.  This will reduce the cost of having to re-apply nutrients."

Brazil's 2017 flue-cured crop will apparently be roughly 50 percent larger than the short 2016 crop, approximately 1,300 million pounds to 900 million pounds. "Current quality appears to be good and in line with expectations," says Peter Sikkel, chief executive officer of Alliance One International. "We are expecting similar positive crop size increases in other key markets."

Thursday, April 27, 2017

DESPITE RAINS, PLANTING MAKES GOOD PROGRESS

A setting crew on a farm near Kenly, N.C., prepares to head to the field again with flue-cured transplants (file photo by Chris Bickers).

Torrential rains on the night of April 24 and the following morning brought field work to a halt and lead to extensive flooding in most of the flue-cured area of N.C. In Raleigh, as in many other locations, the slow-moving storm set a record on the 24th for the month of April at 4.5 inches. In Kinston, in the 30 hours starting at noon on April 24, it reached 7.04 inches.
Much of the Tar Heel flue-cured crop had been planted by the time the rains fell. "Some growers started the week of the 4th, but most started the week of the 10th,"says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "Conditions so far have been pretty good, and we are making good progress. But with saturated soils, we may not make so much progress this week." Wednesday, fortunately, was clear.

About 70 percent of the S.C. crop had been transplanted when the rain started. "Most fields look good," says William Hardee, S.C. area Extension agronomy agent for Horry and Marion counties in the Pee Dee. "There was a little sunscald and wind damage." The soil temperature had been very high when the plants went in, but there were no real issues to this point. "It had been hot and dry in April, so the late April storms will come in handy if it doesn't rain too much," he says. "Once we get back in the field and cultivate, I think we are looking at a good crop." He calculated that contracts had been cut by 15 to 20 percent on conventional flue-cured and 40 to 50 percent on organic tobacco.

If you received some of this excess moisture, consider adjusting for leaching. Where rain fall exceeds two inches, Vann says, consider replacing 100 percent of all nitrogen applied to date. Where rainfall is less than two inches, consider replacing no more than 50 percent. Additional adjustments can be made closer to layby if needed, based on crop response. Apply one pound of potassium for every pound of nitrogen, says Vann. "Potassium is not as leachable as nitrogen and is typically applied at a 2:1 ratio. Therefore, adjusting at a 1:1 ratio will bring the nutrients back to the preferred balance."

Remember: Auxin herbicides and tobacco do not mix. The new technologies that will allow more extensive use of auxin herbicides on cotton and soybeans set the stage for potentially damaging contamination of tobacco plantings. Drift from wind during application of 2,4-D and dicamba can lead to physical contact. Both chemicals can also vaporize and spread to neighboring fields through volatilization.

Tobacco losses from auxin herbicides cannot be measured only in pounds per acre, says Vann. "There are also losses in marketing opportunities."  Auxin herbicides are not labeled for use in production of tobacco. "Therefore, if a drift event (physical or vapor) occurs, residues of a pesticide not labeled for production can be found on cured leaves."  The response from purchasers will certainly be negative.  

Words to remember: "It is my firm belief that the damage done to the reputation of U.S. tobacco because of illegal residues is much greater than the reduced leaf yield done through physical injury," says Vann.  

And it can be even worse for organic tobacco growers. "A drift event could jeopardize organic certification," Vann says. "It would likely require a three-year interval for organic re-certification."

One way you can help yourself: "Know your neighbors and be sure they know you," says Don Fowlkes, manager of agronomy, Burley Stabilization Corporation. "If you have a neighbor who has pastures and fence rows (or crop land) that might be sprayed, be sure they know the location of your tobacco fields. Visiting them ahead of time can go a long way toward preventing problems."

Correction: The company Contraf-Nicotex-Tobacco, which TFN identified in the last issue as a Brazilian company, is actually headquartered in Germany with activity in Brazil. It has recently associated itself with  United Tobacco Company.


Friday, April 7, 2017

USDA PROJECTIONS: BURLEY ACRES UP 7%, FLUE -CURED DOWN 4%




Gearing up for planting in eastern North Carolina. File shot by Chris Bickers.


USDA PLANTING PROJECTIONS


Released March 31, 2016
HIGHLIGHTS: Flue-cured plantings are projected to be down four percent. The biggest percentage decrease among flue-cured states is projected for Georgia at 11 percent. N.C. acreage is projected to be down three percent...Burley plantings are projected to be up seven percent. Tennessee plantings are projected up a substantial 13 percent, with Kentucky up seven percent...Dark air-cured is projected up nine per cent...Fire-cured is projected up six percent.
FLUE-CURED: North Carolina--160,000 acres, down three percent from 2016. Virginia--21,000 acres, down five percent from 2016.Georgia--12,000 acres, down 11 percent from 2016. South Carolina---12,000 acres, down eight percent from 2016. All U.S. flue-cured 205,000 acres, down four percent from 2016.

BURLEY: Tennessee--13,500 acres, up 13 percent from 2016.  Kentucky-- 65,000 acres, up seven percent  from 2016. Pennsylvania-- 4,700 acres, down two percent from 2016. Virginia--1,100 acres, down eight percent from 2016. N.C.--1,000 acres, same as in 2016. All U.S. burley--85,300 acres, up seven percent from 2016.


DARK AIR-CURED: Kentucky--5,300 acres, 10 percent above 2016. Tennessee--1,250 acres, up four percent from 2016. All U.S. dark air-cured--6,550 acres, up nine percent from 2016. 

FIRE-CURED: Kentucky--10,000 acres, up five percent from 2016. Tennessee--7,500 acres, up seven percent from 2016. Virginia--250 acres, down four percent from 2016. All U.S. fire-cured -- 17,750, acres, up six percent from 2016.

CIGAR FILLERPennsylvania -- 1,600 acres, same as in 2016.  

SOUTHERN MARYLAND: Pennsylvania--1,800 acres, same as in 2016.

ALL U.S. TOBACCO--318,000 acres, down one percent since 2016.



Other tobacco news:


A Brazilian connection: The leaf dealer United Tobacco Company (UTC US) of Wilson, N.C., now has a new parent company. UTC International--also located in Wilson, N.C.--will manage UTC US along with its new associated company, Contraf-Nicotex-Tobacco (CNT) of Brazil. Dirk Siemann, managing director of CNT, said, "This is an important step for our group as it will significantly widen our leaf footprint into these two important leaf markets, the U.S. and Brazil."

New hotline on hot topics: GAPConnections is making available to tobacco growers a risk management hotline service designed to help growers manage their workforce and reduce their exposure to employment related liability. "The Human Resource and Legal Hotline will allow GAP Connections members to obtain guidance from experienced employment attorneys," says GAP Connections Executive Director Jane Chadwell. To access the hotline, you can call  (866) 823 - 6333 or email  LittlerHRhelp@ littler.com. Be prepared to provide your name, your GAP Connections Grower ID#, your geographic location, type of issue, your phone number and email address if available. For more informa-tion, please contact Chadwell at 865.622.4606 ext. 104 or JChadwell@gapconnections.com.

We hope you have enjoyed the April I issue. If you would like a copy of each issue sent to your email address, click on Join Our Mailing List below and fill out the short question. Questions? Call editor Chris Bickers at 919 789 4631.  
Join Our Mailing List

Sunday, April 2, 2017

BLUE MOLD BREAKS OUT IN GEORGIA GREENHOUSES



FLORIDA-GEORGIA: Blue mold showed up on flue-cured plants in two south Georgia greenhouses in March. The infestations appear to be under control, and the two new fungicides Presidio and Orondis should help any future outbreaks. But Georgia Extension agronomist J. Michael Moore notes something strange. "We went 10 years without any blue mold, but now we have had it two years in a row?" Likely factor: This was "the year without a winter" in Georgia, and that may have created favorable conditions for development of blue mold. ..Transplanting is getting going. "Many plants in Florida and Georgia will soon be ready for transplanting," says Moore. "few farmers began transplanting in the middle of last week, but this week and the next will be when it really gets going"...There continues to be a shortage of Telone II, and delivery of what is available is being delayed. "This creates a great opportunity for the new non-fumigant nematicide Nimitz from Adama," Moore says.

KENTUCKY: Is dark tobacco in serious danger from federal regulation? A federal regulation now being considered could have a disastrous effect on the marketing of smokeless tobacco products in this country. "This proposed rule would have a devastating economic impact on dark tobacco growers and businesses," Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles said. "It would have the effect of banning the sale of smokeless tobacco in the U.S. Quarles asked Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to direct the Food and Drug Administration to withdraw the proposal because FDA had not accurately estimated the economic impact of the rule and did not propose a standard that was "technically achievable." The main problem is that the proposal would limit the N-Nitrosonornicotine level in finished smokeless tobacco products to one part per million. This limitation probably cannot be met, Quarles said.



NORTH CAROLINA--In Granville County, N.C., Extension agent Paul Westfall said cold weather has affected tobacco greenhouses there, "especially those without good air distribution from heat sources." Diseases are showing up due to high humidity and low ventilation, he said. "Several growers have reported salt damage to seedlings." In Greene County, N.C., tobacco transplants look very good in the greenhouse, says Roy Thagard, Extension agent. "I do wish we had more moisture in fields. I'm always nervous when planting season starts out dry."

VIRGINIA--The outlook appears good for Virginia flue-cured and dark fire-cured, says Bill Scruggs of the Virginia Department of Agriculture. "We are getting some much-needed rain," he says. Contract volume for conventional flue-cured appears about the same as last year. But the organic volume is down... After a period of inactivity, the Virginia tobacco growers association has resumed operating. An annual meeting is scheduled for tonight (March 28) in Halifax, with new president Jay Jennings of Chase City, Va., presiding. Watch for a report in a future issue of TFN.

KENTUCKY: Is dark tobacco in serious danger from federal regulation? A federal regulation now being considered could have a disastrous effect on the marketing of smokeless tobacco products in this country. "This proposed rule would have a devastating economic impact on dark tobacco growers and businesses," Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles said. "It would have the effect of banning the sale of smokeless tobacco in the U.S." Quarles asked Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to direct the Food and Drug Administration to withdraw the proposal because FDA had not accurately estimated the economic impact of the rule and did not propose a standard that was "technically achievable." The main problem is that the proposal would limit the N-Nitrosonornico- tine level in finished smokeless tobacco products to one part per million. This limitation probably cannot be met, Quarles said.

A new leader for export promotion:  Hank Mozingo (right) was elected President of Tobacco Associates at the organization's recent annual meeting in Wilson, N.C., on March 1. He had in recent years served as Vice President. He replaces Kirk Wayne, who retired at the meeting after 47 years of service with Tobacco Associates. The organization is exclusively devoted to the promotion of U.S. flue-cured exports. Mozingo will work from the organization's office in Raleigh.








GAP TRAINING EVENTS


TENNESSEE (Burley)
  • April 6, 6:30 PM. Appalachian Fair Grounds, Building 1, Lakeview St., Johnson City TN. Contact Anthony Shelton at ashelton@utk.edu or 423 753 1680.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

TRANSPLANTING READY TO BEGIN












A newly seeded greenhouse near Raleigh, N.C.


TRANSPLANTING READY TO BEGIN

The Type 14 crop is going to the field early. There was essentially no winter in Georgia and Florida, says J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco specialist. "We had very few days when the temperature fell below 32 degrees." As a result, plants have been making fast progress in the greenhouse. "Some plants are running away from us. A few farmers may have begun transplanting already. I am expecting a lot of the crop to go to the field in the next two weeks."

No need to wait till April 7? The recommendation most years is to delay transplanting until April 7 or later because there tends to be less incidence of tomato spotted wilt virus after that date. But because of the weather, that may not be the case this season, says Moore. "Alternate host populations as well as thrips populations are already high."

If you plant early, though, Moore advises doing the best job possible of suppressing TSWV with Actigard and Imidacloprid. 

No transplanting yet of flue-cured in North Carolina, but plants are progressing well in greenhouses. "It might be the best plant-growing season in many years," says Matthew Vann, specialist with the N.C. Extension tobacco team. "Thanks to the mild winter [until March 12], the N.C. flue-cured crop was seeded earlier than normal. Seeding is in fact substantially complete across the state, although there may be a few unseeded greenhouses remaining in the western Piedmont."

Variety distribution in N.C. flue-cured appears to be roughly the same as last year, says Vann, but there was a lot of interest in the new variety NC 938. "Growers looked long and hard at NC 938," he says. "It has strong black shank resistance and good yield potential." He thinks it will play a large part in N.C. flue-cured production in the future.

Just a few greenhouses have been seeded in Kentucky. "We may have a few plants breaking through but not many," says Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. "Even though the 2016 season did not go well for many Kentucky growers, the feedback I am getting is that most of them are trying to grow another crop." 

There doesn't seem to have been much shifting among varieties, except that a few more are planting the relatively new KT 215 because of its resistance to black shank and fusarium wilt, he says.


Should farmers sell finished products?
Two opinions

The U.S. Tobacco Cooperative Inc. (USTC) in Raleigh, N.C., recently purchased a N.J. cigarette manufacturer, King Maker Marketing Inc. of Paramus, through its consumer products division, Premier Manufacturing of Chesterfield, Mo. The acquisition added four brands to USTC's consumer products portfolio. 

"Each of the brands has a solid sales history and consumer following," said USTC Chief Executive Officer Stuart Thompson. "The addition of these nationally recognized brands to our portfolio allows us to increase market share in our category and expand distribution due to our larger sales and marketing organization." 

Earlier in 2016, USTC announced that Premier is now supplying Circle K convenience stores in 40 states with its cigarette brand Traffic.

Soon after the price support program ended, USTC (formerly Flue-Cured Stabilization) tried marketing some of its farmers' leaf as finished products. The big step was purchasing a cigarette factory in Timberlake, N.C. About the same time, it bought Premier, and now it has bought King. All 

USTC brand cigarettes are in the value category, led by 1839, whose name commemorates the discovery of the bright curing process. The results have been good. As one source within the cooperative says, "We get high-quality tobacco from our growers, we make that leaf into a very tasty product, then we sell it at a price that is a value to consumers. The packaging and price bring them in. But the reason they come back is because they think the product tastes good."

The burley co-ops, on the other hand, focus entirely on leaf. The Burley Stabilization Corporation (BSC) cooperative in Springfield, Tn., experimented with manufacturing products for a few years but found it was just not right for them, says BSC leader Daniel Green. "We found that finished products were not the direction we needed to go," says Green. "We sold our interest in the finished product business so that we can fully focus on our leaf tobacco business. The way we look at it, there are people that are really good at finished tobacco products. We want to supply them with the best quality leaf possible and are not interested in trying to compete with them." 

And at Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association in Lexington, Ky., there was never much interest in manufacturing finished tobacco products, says Steve Pratt, general manager. "We concentrate on contracting, processing and selling leaf tobacco," he says.

GAP TRAINING EVENTS

KENTUCKY (Burley/Dark)

March 28, 6 PM. Laurel County Extension Office, 200 County Extension Rd., London KY. Contact Glenn Williams at gwilliam@uky.edu or 606 864 4167.

March 30, 6 PM. Warren County Extension Office, 3132 Nashville Rd., Bowling Green KY. Contact Joanna Coles at jcoles@uky.edu or 270 842 1681.

MARYLAND/PENNSYLVANIA (All types)

Note: The contact for all MD-PA meetings is Jeff Graybill, Pennsylvania Extension, Lancaster County, 717-394-6851. 

March 27, 9 AM. Ira Hertzler Farm, 28379 Thompson Corner Rd., Mechanicsville, MD.

March 28, 9 AM. Garden Spot Fire Rescue, 369 East Main St., New Holland PA.

March 28, 1 AM. Garden Spot Fire Rescue, 369 East Main St., New Holland, PA.

March 29, 9 AM. 172 South Lime St., Quarryville, PA.

March 30, 9 AM. Turbotville Community Hall, 41 Church St., Turbotville, PA.

March 29, 1 PM. 172 South Lime St., Quarryville, PA.







Farm Family Life Museum


CC143


Friday, March 3, 2017

HOW MUCH CAN YOU AFFORD TO INVEST TO GROW YOUR 2017 CROP?



Join Our Mailing List

How to move plant trays around easily. Craig West of Fremont, N.C., and his wife Nell stopped to look at a plant tray conveyance at the Wilson Manufacturing exhibit at the Southern Farm Show. Said G.H. Wilson, "It is 20 feet long and holds 240 trays and is built so you can easily access the trays once you arrive."

HOW MUCH CAN YOU AFFORD TO 
INVEST TO GROW YOUR 2017 CROP?

Why burley growers are reluctant to buy: Rod Kuegel, who grows dark and burley near Owensboro, Ky., attended the Tobacco Show in Lexington, Ky., on January 19 and 20 and didn't notice many burley and dark growers seeking to make major investments in new equipment. "We had such a damaged crop from water in 2016 that growers are a little reluctant to make big purchases."

Join Our Mailing List

Welcome to the February II issue of Tobacco Farmer Newsletter. If you haven't signed on to receive the newsletter regularly or need to change an address, please click on "Join our mailing list" and follow the prompts. For more information, you can call me at 919-789-4631 or email me at chrisbickers@gmail.com.--Chris Bickers

Too much rain in July: Weather conditions last summer certainly didn't lead to enthusiasm for purchasing  machinery. George Marks, who grows dark and burley near Clarksville, Tn., attended the Southern Farm Show. In an interview during the Tobacco Growers Association of N.C. meeting on the Show's last day, he said the 2017 dark crop in Tennessee and Kentucky was one of the worst ever. Burley there finished badly too. "There was too much rain in the month of July. Much of both crops drowned out. A lot of us should probably look for better-drained soils to plant dark tobacco on."
The yield was way down on burley at about 1,400 pounds per acre, said Marks, who is the president of the Burley Stabilization Corporation cooperative (BSC). A normal burley crop would yield 2,200 to 2,400 pounds per acre. Dark yielded about 2,400 pound per acre. Compare that to a normal yield of about 3,300 pounds per acre, Marks said. Dark did better at the market. "The outlook for dark is good right now," said Marks. "Snuff sales are still trending upward."

Cleaning trays with steam: Craig West of Fremont, N.C., stopped by the Long Tobacco Barns exhibit at the Southern Farm Show. He'd bought a Long Steaming Eagle tray steamer and expected to begin running it soon, probably four times a day, steaming 2,400 trays a day. That's enough to fill a 200-foot greenhouse. "We were forced into using the steamer, but it has proved better than methyl bromide. It does a better job of dis-ease control, but methyl bromide was easier to use." NOTE: More on the new steamers and the new easy-to-clean plant trays will appear in the next issue.

Who knows how many sales will be made? Tom Pharr of MarCo Manufacturing said his trip to the show had not been very encouraging. "The traffic was not heavy. But you never know: I have 'priced' everything I have, and who knows where that will lead?" Probably the most interest at the MarCo booth was in the harvesters, but not by a whole lot. "Also, our curing controls have attracted attention," said Pharr. "I think we will make some sales."
No falloff for some companies. "We have more orders than we had at this time in 2015 or 2016," said Mack Grady, president of Cureco in Seven Springs, N.C., in an interview as the Southern Farm Show. "That's a surprise to us, since we are doing the same things we did in those years." But it could just be random. "It certainly seems like this season will likely be down in production," he said.



Leadership in farm labor recognized: The president of the North Carolina Growers Association, Len Wester, received the President's Award for Leadership from the Tobacco Growers Association of N.C at its meeting on February 5. Other award recipients included: Distinguished Service Award: Zane Hedgecock, chief of staff, N.C. Department of Agriculture. Extension Service Award: Matthew Vann; Lifetime Century Member: Marion Hawkins Jr. of GoldLeaf Seed; Farm Family of the Year: The 

Isley Family Farms, Rockingham County; and Outstanding Directors for 2017: Brent Leggett, Nash County and Randy Smith, Lenoir County.
A young farmer and a farmer organization leader 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. Brandon Batten of Four Oaks, N.C., was named "Innovative Young Farmer of the Year", sponsored by the Farm Credit Associations of North Carolina. Jimmy Gentry, president of the N.C. State Grange, received the Excellence in Agriculture Award, sponsored by Wells Fargo.
A short course to update young N.C. growers and others on the realities of 21st Century tobacco production: 46 young N.C. tobacco growers, Extension agents, research station managers and technicians, and agronomists participated recently in the 2017 N.C. State Tobacco Short Course in Raleigh. It was conducted by the N.C. Tobacco Foundation with the N.C. State University College of Agriculture. Funding for the program was provided by the N.C. Tobacco Research Commission and the Tobacco Growers Association of N.C. Participants were:
  • Farmers: Scott Edwards--Bladen Co.; Brent Watts--Columbus Co.; Adam Fulcher--Craven Co.; Nick Suggs--Greene Co.; Blake Roberson and Robert Turner III--Martin Co.; Adam Matthews and Anna Jackson--Moore Co.; Kendall Parker--Orange Co.; Worth Williams, Willie Dixon, Matt and Jon Grady, Chase James and Daniel Tyson--Pitt Co.; Mike Angell--Rockingham Co.; Jerry and Josh Manuel--Stokes Co.; Steven Evans, Jr., Vance Grady, Justin and Rex Price--Wayne Co.; Jennings Hinnant, Patrick and Marsha Robbins--Wilso Co.; Ben Hobson -- Yadkin Co.
  • Extension:  Bart Baumgarner--Orange Co.; Blake Sandlin--Duplin Co.
  • NCDA Agronomists: Josh Mays--Region 9, and Carla Pugh--Region 1.

  • NCDA Research Station personnel: Phillip Winslow, Thomas Stroud, Evan Taylor--Lower Coastal Region; Alex Addison--Upper Mountain Research Station; John Erick Freeman--Mountain Research Station.

  • Agribusiness Entities: Ernie Hiatt and Cameron Shelton, R. J. Reynolds Tobacco. Tim Jackson--Crop Consultant; Ryan Lambert--Coastal Agro; Brandon Cole--Helena Chemical, and Bryan Hicks--Meherrin Ag.