Wednesday, July 20, 2016

WHAT ROLE SHOULD AUCTIONS PLAY IN MODERN LEAF MARKETING?

In my last issue, I reported the opinion of the leader of US Tobacco Cooperative that auctions are contributing to the problem of oversupply of leaf; the response of warehouseman Dennis White of Rural Hall, N.C.; and my own opinion that warehouses are a more desirable marketing method than anything that might rise up in their place. I asked for other opinions, and I definitely got them. Following are the first responses I received. If you want to weigh in with further thoughts, I will print them in a future issue.  Email direct to this address: chrisbickers@gmail.com. Write Auctions in the heading. The original items appear at the end of this section. And after that there is a short update on several new outbreaks of blue mold that I have become aware. Look for my next issue around the first of August.--Chris Bickers

Strongly disagree [with editor Bickers].
Charlie S. Batten, N.C.

[I] just read your thoughts on the auctions, [and I] cannot follow your thinking! There about eight end users of flue-cured tobacco. The contractors are receiving tobacco that should be graded for a price, say $2.10, [which] they reject by grading to a lesser price. The farmer takes the bale to auction and receives an offer of $1.50. What is he to do? He sells to warehouse...The warehouse sells the bale, direct or indirect, to the same company after everyone involved gets their cut. Everyone wins except the grower! The situation is even worse with wildcat tobacco that is covered with crop insurance! Wake up!
Kendall Hill, N.C.

I agree with you [that] auctions remain a needed portion of our tobacco leaf sales system. There will always be some leaf falling below contract standards but [that is] usable in lesser brands. Many people don't realize our major buyers are pointing those contract purchases to manufacturing premium brands here and globally. The cheaper off-quality leaf can be nearly a substitute for the imported strips from Africa, India and some Asian countries. A far more important issue is the acres produced with the RMA subsidized crop insurance as the underlying revenue guarantee and subsequent flow of those dollars.  Despite some feeble attempts to reform the most offending portions of that system, the pounds from both burley and flue continue to increase going through the quality grading program.  Only when the insurance reform discussions are being lead by non-conflicted growers will we see improvements in the abuse of the crop insurance area.
Roger Quarles, Ky.
(Note: In an earlier edition, this letter was mistakenly attributed to Roger Quarles' son, Ryan Quarles, Commissioner of Agriculture of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.)

I may regret these words, but if a farmer [has] contract pounds, he or she should not be able to insure it. Insurance is what is supporting wildcat tobacco and that only hurts the whole tobacco industry.
Brad Barefoot, N.C.

Here is the editor's original opinion: The danger of oversupply comes not so much from tobacco sold beyond what is contracted, but from tobacco sold beyond what is contracted that no one knows about. The auctions offer at least a framework for transparency. I consider them--and have considered them from the time the new ones started springing up--to be a positive addition to our marketing system. I wish we had more of them (TFN July II 2016). 

UPDATE ON BLUE MOLD
--Pennsylvania: Blue mold was found growing in several tobacco fields in the Christiana area of eastern Lancaster County two weeks ago. It has since been found at low levels in other areas as well. At this point, the incidences don't appear to be cause for much concern. "With the recent hot dry weather, it should not spread very quickly," says Jeff Graybill, Pennsylvania agronomy Extension educator. "But fields should continue to be closely monitored, and in many cases a protective spray should beapplied." It was found on burley. "But I would imagine that in some cases, fields of the other types--especially PA type 41 wrapper tobacco--should be sprayed," he says.
--Virginia: "We know of three cases of blue mold in central Virginia, all within 20 miles," says Chuck Johnson, Virginia Extension plant pathologist. "Hopefully, we'll not see any more. But we're watching. Many fields are at or are approaching topping, at which point leaves become less susceptible as they thicken and ripen."
--Tennessee: Blue mold was found in Carter County, Tn., in the northeast part of the state bordering North Carolina, on July 2, according to Melody Rose, Tennessee Extension agent in nearby Greene County. "That was actually during a dry spell when you don't expect blue mold," she says. Since then, a few spots have appeared here and there, usually in shady areas or by rivers. None appear threatening now, Rose believes, but topping is still a way off in east Tennessee. 
DATES TO REMEMBER
  • July 21. Tennessee Tobacco Tour, AgResearch Education Ctr., Greeneville, Tn. Registration and a trade show start at 3 p.m. Tours start at 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. with a sponsored dinner at 7 p.m. Contact: 423-638-6532.
  • July 25-27. N.C. Tobacco Tour. Welcome reception begins at 6 p.m., Kings BBQ, Kinston, N.C., July 25. Tours begin July 26 at 8 a.m. (breakfast at 7:30 a.m.) at the Cunningham Research Station in Kinston and on July 27 at the Upper Coastal Plain Research Station in Rocky Mount at 8 a.m. (breakfast at 7:30 a.m.). Farm visits both days in the afternoon. The tour will end in Oxford around 5 p.m. To register, go to tobacco.ces.ncsu.edu.
  • July 28. Corn, Soybean and Tobacco Field Day, University of Kentucky Research & Education Center, Princeton. Registration begins at 7 a.m. and tours run from 8 a.m. until noon. Sponsored lunch. Contact: Andy Bailey at 270-365-7541 Extn. 240.
  • August 2. Annual Tobacco Research Field Day. Southern Piedmont AREC, Blackstone, Va. Registration begins at 5 p.m., followed by dinner. Tour will begin at 6 p.m. Contact: Margaret Kenny at 434-292-5331  or makenny@vt.edu.
  • August 11. Tobacco Twilight Tour, Murray State University, Murray, Ky. Registration beginning at 5:30 p.m., followed by field tour and supper. Contact: Andy Bailey at andybailey@uky.edu or  270-365-7541 Extn. 240
  • August 8-9. Burley Tobacco Research Tour in Central Ky. August 8: Begins at the Plant and Soil Sciences Field Lab., 3250 Ironworks Pike, Lexington Ky., at 1 p.m. Dinner at 5:30. August 9: 8 a.m.-2 p.m. tour of test plots on grower farms in surrounding counties. Contact: Bob Pearce at 859-257-5110.

Monday, July 4, 2016

BLUE MOLD MAKES IT TO N.C.




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Blue mold lesions grow on flue-cured leaves in this file photo of a field in southeastern N.C.

The fungal disease was spotted on flue-cured in Caswell County, N.C., on June 17. Extension agent Joey Knight reports that the farmer treated quickly and thoroughly with Quadris and the blue mold was kept under control. "We'd been having 50-degree nights, heavy dews, and there was a 3.5 inch rain the night before," Knight says. "The conditions were right for blue mold. "But he had just topped, and after he sprayed. a hot spell set in, and there was very little spread. A few neighboring fields got a little of the disease, but all affected farmers sprayed. By the Fourth of July weekend, there appeared to be no more active blue mold in the area, which is south of Danville, Va. There have been no other reports of blue mold in N.C,, but it continues on flue-cured in Florida and Georgia.


Scout tobacco fields for blue mold in the coming days, particularly since many areas of Kentucky have had rainy weather recently, Emily Pfeufer, Ky. Extension plant

pathologist. Focus on areas where the pathogen is likely to encounter conditions that are conducive to the disease: Low spots, areas with partial shade, lower leaves and locations where water tends to drain slowly. "Look for yellow to orange spots on tops of lower leaves, then turn leaves over to check for blue-gray, some-what fuzzy sporula-tion," says Pfeufer. "Sporulation is more abundant under humid conditions, so scouting is most effective when done in early morning or late afternoon." The more recently set plantings will be more susceptible to infection. "However, all tobacco may be considered at-risk, especially crops located east of I-75."

Limited resistance: A few modern burley varieties have partial resistance to blue mold.  "But none have what we would consider high resistance," says Pfeurer. "[And] 
there is no resistance at all in dark tobacco."

Budworms versus ear-worms: Entomologists in N.C. have started seeing budworms in tobacco that was planted on time, says Hannah Burrack, N.C. Extension entomologist. "But there is less pressure on the tobacco that was planted later"...There were unusual early populations of corn earworm relative to budworms in some parts of the state, says Burrack. "It is interesting to us, but we manage both insects the same way."

New N.C. plant patholo-gist for tobacco: Lindsey Thiessen has been named the new N.C. Extension plant pathologist covering tobacco, replacing Mina Mila, who is now concentrating on research and teaching. In addition to tobacco, Thiessen will cover plant pathology on cotton, soybeans and other field crops. She will have some research responsibilities. A native of Texas, she recently obtained her doctorate at Oregon State University. She will work out of the main N.C. State campus in Raleigh.

USDA PLANTINGS ESTIMATES
Flue-cured plantings achieve earlier estimate, but burley didn't--USDA said in its June 30 acreage report that flue-cured growers planted 209,000 acres, down 11,000 acres from last season  and about what was predicted in USDA's Prospective Plantings Report in March. But burley growers planted only 75,900 acres, down 3,000 acres from 2015, rather than the small increase USDA had projected in March. Following are the state-by-state projections for the various types compared to last year.


FLUE-CURED: North Carolina, 160,000 acres, down 12,000 acres. Virginia, 21,000 acres, down 500 acres. South Carolina, 14,500 acres, up 1,500 acres. Georgia, 13,500 acres, no change.


BURLEY: Kentucky, 57,000 acres, down 1,000 acres. Tennessee, 12,000 acres, no change. Pennsylvania, 4,800 acres, up 100 acres. Virginia, 1,200 acres, down 100 acres. North Carolina, 900 acres, down 100 acres.
                                                 
FIRE-CURED: All states--17,150 acres, down 700 acres. By state--Kentucky, 9,500 acres, down 400 acres. Tennessee, 7,400 acres, down 300 acres. Virginia, 250 acres, no change.        
DARK AIR-CURED: All states--5,900 acres, down 300 acres. By state--Kentucky, 4,700 acres, down 300 acres. Tennessee, 1,200 acres, no change.         
                                                        
PENNSYLVANIA SEEDLEAF: Pennsylvania, 1,600 acres, no change.
SOUTHERN MARYLAND: Pennsylvania, 1,600 acres, no change.

DATES TO REMEMBER
  • July 25-27. N.C. Tobacco Tour. Tentatively starting 4 p.m. Jly 25 near Bentonville, N.C., continuing with tours starting in Kinston on July 26 and in Rocky Mount on July 27 and ending in Oxford. To register, go to the NCSU Tobacco Growers Information website at https://tobacco.ces.ncsu.edu.
  • August 2. Annual Tobacco Research Field Day. Southern Piedmont AREC, Blackstone, Va. Registration begins at 5 p.m., followed by dinner. Tour will begin at 6 p.m. Contact: Margaret Kenny at 434-292-5331 or makenny@vt.edu.
  • August 8-9. Burley Tobacco Industry Tour, Lexington, Ky. Details to be announced.


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Mann Mullen is the owner of Big M auction warehouse in Wilson, N.C.
We hold sealed bid auctions
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For more information, contact Mann Mullen at 919-496-9033 
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FARMERS TOBACCO WAREHOUSE

209 Harding St., Danville, Ky.
PH: 859-236-4932

Full-service burley warehouse

Jerry Rankin, Owner


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Monday, June 20, 2016

TOMATO SPOTTED WILT BREAKS OUT IN FLORIDA, GEORGIA AND SOUTH CAROLINA


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Flue-cured plants in south Georgia show effects of tomato spotted wilt virus last week. (Photo courtesy of J. Michael Moore).

Tomato spotted wilt is widespread in Florida and Georgia. "This is probably the highest incidence in the last 10 years," says J. Michael Moore, Georgia-Florida Extension tobacco specialist. "We are seeing 20, 30, even 40 percent of fields with the disease," says Moore. It has appeared in South Carolina too.

Why the spotted wilt outbreak? "The likely reason is the extremely warm winter that we had," says Moore. "It allowed the survival of the weeds that host the disease and the thrips that vector it." Georgia-Florida farmers
generally use Actigard and Admire to reduce TSWV losses. But this season the chemicals seem to have been over-whelmed.

Blue mold has also been problematic. "We have had blue mold in these two states since Easter," says Moore. "It falls in a strip running from Gainesville, Fl., to Metter, Ga. It has only been at a low level on lower leaves and will likely be reduced with warmer and drier weather. But between blue mold and TSWV, the value of the downstalk leaves is likely to be reduced."

Since the demand for downstalk leaf is down anyway, this is the year to leave downstalk leaves in the field, Moore says. "It is likely we will have an inferior quality tobacco at the bottom, and we don't need to spend money on harvesting, curing and baling it." You could remove the bottom leaves with a defoliator, but Moore thinks that is an unnecessary expense too. "Set your harvester at a level that leaves all but the best lugs, and make a good primings grade for your first harvest," he says. "Just leave the bottom leaves in the field."



Flyings versus lugs: In contrast, the leaves from the bottom of the burley stalk--called flyings--are in short supply on the current market. The main reason: Under present practices, it is hard to produce a true flying. "There may be only one or two flyings on the stalk," says Don Fowlkes, agronomist for the Burley Stabilization Corporation in Springfield, Tn. "So farmers usually end up with a bottom grade that is a mixture of flyings and cutters. We are encouraging growers to separate true flyings from cutters if they can."

Crop report: In Florida, harvest of flue-cured has begun, and it should start in Georgia very soon, says Moore. In South Carolina, 13 percent of the flue-cured had been topped by June 19. In Virginia, 91 percent of the flue-cured, 88 percent of the burley and 85 percent of fire-cured had been transplanted by June 19, according to USDA. The burley crop in Tennessee was late getting in the ground, with perhaps 20 percent still to be planted as of June 17, says Fowlkes. In North Carolina, 75 percent of the burley was transplanted, and in Kentucky, 83 percent of all types have been transplanted, both estimates through June 19, again according to USDA.


DATES TO REMEMBER
  • June 23, Tobacco Field Day. Highland Rim AgResearch & Education Center, Springfield, Tn.  8 a.m. to 1:30 P.M. (CDT). Contact 615-382-3130. 
  • July 25-27. N.C. Tobacco Tour. Details to follow.
  • August 2. Annual Tobacco Research Field Day. Southern Piedmont AREC, Blackstone, Va. Registration begins at 5 p.m., followed by dinner. Tour will begin at 6 p.m. Contact: Margaret Kenny at 434-292-5331 or makenny@vt.edu.

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
We promise 
HONEST AND TRUSTWORTHY 
SERVICE
We will be GAP certified 
For more information, contact Mann Mullen at 919-496-9033 
or the warehouse switchboard at 252-206-1447.


FARMERS TOBACCO WAREHOUSE

209 Harding St., Danville, Ky.
PH: 859-236-4932

Full-service burley warehouse

Jerry Rankin, Owner


  Call for information.
CC143

Friday, June 10, 2016

CROP LATE BUT LOOKING GOOD



The race to end a long setting season: Farmers pulled out all the stops to finish transplanting in late May and early June, as in this file photo taken in eastern N.C. of an eight-row Trium transplanter from C&M.

Beautiful in the field: The crop in eastern North Carolina is just "beautiful," says Rick Smith, president of Independent Leaf Tobacco, a dealer in Wilson, N.C. "We are getting warm nights now, and if we could get the rain to slow down, it would take off."

Still some to plant in N.C. It looks like 95 to 96 percent of the flue-cured crop in N.C. is planted, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "That is not a good number for this time of year. We like to be done by now." In the east, all the crop has been planted, most of it since the end of May, and generally it really took off as soon as it got into the ground." About 25 percent statewide is late, and Vann is concerned that there might be a problem if there is intense heat in July or earlier.

In the Old Belt, the crop is falling into two segments, says Vann: one that is being laid by now and one that is going in the ground. Soils that don't drain well tend to fall in the latter category. In the Winston-Salem area, about five percent of the flue-cured 
remains to be planted, says Tim Hambrick, Extension tobacco agent for Forsyth, Stokes and Surry counties. "This is awfully late," he says. "We would like to be done by now. Some of our tobacco is being planted after the insurance date." Very hard weather conditions in May were the reason for the late planting and development, he says.

In the Kentucky Bluegrass, some fields are yet to be planted and those that have are about two to three weeks behind, says Jerry Rankin, burley grower and owner of Farmers Tobacco Warehouse in Danville. "I would say 55 percent to 70 percent is planted. In a normal year it would be more like 90 percent. There is still plenty to go out." Rankin still has eight to 10 more acres of his own to plant. "You would rather be done in May than June 7 or 8." But the tobacco that has been planted has a near perfect stand, he says. "It looks super good."

Note to burley growers: 2016 will be no year to overproduce, says Daniel Green, chief executive officer of Burley Stabilization Corporation (BSC), headquartered in Springfield, Tn. The world burley market continues a very slow recovery from oversupply, especially neutral filler, he says, and producing more than the industry demands will put additional pressure on growers. "Don't overshoot your contracted pounds," he says.
Return of a tobacco specialist: BSC recently appointed Don Fowlkes to serve as agronomist stationed at the BSC facility in Greeneville, Tn., and provide support to Bill Maksymowicz who serves as agronomist out of the BSC office in Springfield. Fowlkes was the Extension tobacco specialist for the state of Tennessee from 1985 to 2001. He has been employed by Philip Morris USA and PMI for most of the intervening time.
 
What style of burley is in demand now? Fowlkes says, "In broad terms the, the burley our customers want is best described as being medium to heavy bodied with a tannish-red to red color line--not tobacco that is thin and bright (buff, light tan, K color lines), but also not tobacco that is excessively dark or black." Generally speaking, a tan with tannish red to red color line is preferred over bright or light. And medium to heavy body is preferred over thin, especially upstalk. "This is not to imply that the 'thins' or downstalk grades are not important or not in demand," he says. "They are."
 
One way to make lower-stalk flue-cured leaf more valuable: shake off the sand. "This is one of the most serious problems with lower-stalk tobacco," say agronomists associated with N.C. State University. "The content of sand sometimes runs as high as one sixth of the weight of tobacco. Sand removal will definitely increase the quality of your tobacco."
 
Correction: USTC will operate five leaf marketing centers this season--Nashville, Ga.; Mullins, S.C.; Wilson, N.C.; Smithfield, N.C., and the new one in LaCrosse, Va. It will operate a green leaf storage facility in Sanford, N.C.
 

Monday, May 23, 2016

WEATHER PUTS BRAKES ON TOBACCO PLANTING



Sandy soil (as in this field shown in this file shot taken near Tarboro, N.C.) allowed Eastern Belt farmers to make some progress on planting. But much of the Tobacco Belt was slowed by rain and cold in May.

FLUE-CURED
North Carolina--Like much of the Southeast, it has been too wet and cool in North Carolina for the crop to make much progress, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "Two weeks ago, a survey showed that 59 percent of the flue-cured crop had been set. But I doubt we are up to much more than 65 percent. A few growers in the east who have sandy soil were able to finish up, but for most of the state, the rain has put on the brakes on transplanting. We just haven't had the drying time we need." Warmer temperatures would help too, since growth in the field has been slowed.

South Carolina--Planting is substantially complete, and the crop looks good so far, says William Hardee, area S.C. Extension agronomy agent. One area of concern: About 300 acres that had been planted before the cold weather of the weekend of April 9 are showing some effects. There wasn't serious damage but Hardee notes that you see some skips between plants and some unevenness in growth. "If it will all grow to the same height, we are not looking at too much of a problem." Meanwhile, there is some incidence of tomato spotted wilt virus.

Virginia--Transplanting was moving at a glacial pace for flue-cured and fire-cured growers in Virginia. As of May 15, only about 28 percent of the flue-cured crop had been transplanted, compared to a five-year average by that date of 57 percent. For fire-cured, which is grown in roughly the same area of south central Virginia as flue-cured, only about five percent had been set out by that date, compared to the five-year average of 29 percent. But burley was much nearer the average, with 12 percent set out against a five-year average of 14 percent. Note: All projections are from NASS' Crop Progress and Condition for Virginia.

BURLEY
Kentucky--Very slow progress has been made because of the weather. "I would guess that maybe five percent of the burley crop is planted," says Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist Bob Pearce. "We have had basically one full day and part of another that were dry enough to get anything done." Now, plants are ready to go, but farmers are forced to hold them back. "We are putting a lot of effort into disease control in the greenhouse, especially target spot." A plant shortage is certainly possible. Pearce is afraid Kentucky farmers may wind up planting in a narrow window, then not be able to harvest it all when it is ready. "Some might have to stay out longer than needed," he says.

Tennessee--Due to rain, very little field work was accomplished in the major burley-producing area around Nashville in the week ending May 15. Some newly set fields in Cheatham County (west of Nashville) suffered serious hail damage, said Ronnie Barron, county Extension agent, in the Tennessee Crop Weather from NASS. Very heavy rains caused some flooding in parts of Trousdale County (northeast of Nashville), leaving some corn and soybean plantings under water. Flooding caused some issues in newly transplanted burley fields, said Jason Evitts, county Extension agent, also in Tennessee Crop Weather.

DARK
Kentucky/Tennessee--Only about 10 percent of the dark tobacco types have been set out in Kentucky and Tennessee, says Andy Bailey, Kentucky Extension dark tobacco specialist. "We would like to be at 15 percent or more. But we have had only three or four good days since May 4, thanks to a lot of rain." Plants are doing well in the floatbeds and there shouldn't be any shortage, he adds.

In other news...
The global supply demand balance for burley improved greatly over the past year resulting in modest changes in U.S. contract volume for 2016, according to the April 26 edition of Economic and Policy Update from the University of Kentucky. Smaller crops in South America, Africa and the United States, coupled with a surprising increase in U.S. cigarette production helped offset the impacts of a strengthening U.S. dollar. Globally, world burley production is down around 20 percent over the past two years.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A PROGRESS REPORT ON THE 2016 TOBACCO CROP

Flue-cured growing in south Georgia on May 4. It was set on March 24.

Georgia and Florida--Planting is complete, says Extension tobacco specialist J. Michael Moore. "Some growers are making fertilizer applications, while the earliest transplanted fields have been plowed for the last time." There was an abundances of plants and many of them are still available for purchase. Moore expects 13,500 acres of tobacco in Georgia, which is the same as USDA's Prospective Plantings projection for the state. He expects about 1.300 acres in Florida, which wasn't included in the USDA Plantings report.

North Carolina--Planting is 75 percent complete in the Eastern Belt, 56 percent complete in the Middle Belt and 21 percent complete in the Old Belt, according to a county agent survey compiled by Matthew Vann, Extension tobacco specialist. The statewide estimate is 59 percent.Thanks to rainfall in most of the state, Vann doesn't expect much transplanting got done this week. "But once we get some dry weather, the farmers will get right back out there." There are still plenty of transplants available and they are generally of good quality, he says.

Virginia--Planting of flue-cured was only about five percent completed through May 1, according to USDA's Crop and Progress Report. The five-year average is 11 percent. Weather the past week prevented catching up but farmers weren't complaining. "Rain this week was helpful," says Extension agent Cynthia Gregg in Brunswick County. "Producers are planting tobacco and needed the rain."

Kentucky--Burley growers are waiting for fields to dry out, says Bob Pearce, Extension tobacco specialist. "Maybe a few have set some tobacco out already, but most are in await and see attitude with the weather." Thanks to up and down weather during the plant-producing season, it was a challenge to get a good crop of plants, but Pearce says what he has seen so far has been fair to good. It looks like the supply will be adequate but some growers may have to hunt around if they don't grow enough of their own. 

Tennessee--Transplanting has just barely begun, says Eric Walker, Extension tobacco specialist. He knows of only a few producers in the state who have started setting tobacco. "We were all geared up to start setting, but then the rain we received over the weekend was enough to hold us back. Next week, it will be wide open."

In other tobacco news:

Blue mold has been found in several greenhouses in south Georgia since Easter, but it is not a significant problem in the field yet, says Moore. "Farmers aggressively treated
in their greenhouses and segregated the infected plants. We have found only one location where blue mold is active in the field." Hot weather in this area last week will hopefully have dried up any other blue mold in the field.

A little tomato spotted wilt has also been found in Georgia. Moore estimates one or two percent of plants have been infected. "That is not nearly as much as was expected after our relatively warm winter and spring," he says. There was no shortage either of weed hosts or of thrips, which vectors the disease.

GAP audits for cooperative growers: The U.S. Tobacco Cooperative (USTC), headquartered in Raleigh, N.C., will require GAP Connection audits for all of its growers this year. "While grower audits are time consuming, they are a key part of changing the perception of U.S. tobacco," says Stuart Thompson, chief executive officer of the cooperative, which serves flue-cured growers. "Leaf buyers not only want growers to meet high standards, they want data to prove it." Thompson thinks the market is heading toward 100 percent audit of growers on an annual basis...USTC has created a new position of director of leaf quality and appointed Declan Curran to fill it. Curran had been manager of processing and quality at Phillip Morris International previously.


One new leaf marketing center has been opened by USTC this season. Two others were closed. The co-op will operate six marketing centers, in Nashville, Ga.; Mullins, S.C.; Wilson, N.C., Sanford, N.C.; Smithfield, N.C., and LaCrosse, Va. The LaCrosse center is new. The co-op has closed marketing centers in Oxford, N.C., and Danville, Va.

More child labor allegations: Reynolds American (RAI) came under fire this week when the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) contended that some of RAI's farmers violated the company's 2014 commitment not to allow the employment of children under 16 on farms it buys tobacco from. Further details will follow in a future issue.

In Passing: Layten Davis of Spring Creek, N.C., near Marshall, died April 30. A native of Madison County, he was a professor of agronomy at the University of Kentucky, later the director of the Tobacco and Health Research Institute in Lexington, Ky., and still later principal research scientist at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. He was the co-editor in 1999 of Tobacco: Production, Chemistry and Technology, still an important reference book. 


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The first crop projection of the season is in





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--160,000 acres, down six percent. VA-- 21,000 acres, down two percent. SC--14,500 acres, up 12 percent. GA--13,500 acres, no change. Burley: KY--61,000 acres, up one percent. TN--12,000 acres, unchanged. NC-- 950 acres, down five percent. PA--4,000 acres, down 15 percent. VA--1,200 acres, down eight percent. Fire-cured: KY--10,000 acres, up one percent. TN--7,100 acres, down seven percent. VA--250 acres, unchanged.  Dark air-cured: KY--4,700 acres, down six percent. TN--1,250 acres, up four percent. So. Maryland (PA): 1,600 acres, unchanged. Cigar leaf(Conn./Mass): 2,900 acres, up four percent. Cigar filler (PA): 1,400 acres, down 12 per cent.
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
                 
WISCONSIN
  • April 19, 8:30 a.m., David Fisher's Farm, 11575 Hale Lane, Darlington, Wi.
  • April 19, 1 p.m. Mahlon King's Farm, 28630 County Rd. XX, Platteville, Wi. 
  • April 20, 8:30 a.m. Daniel Esh's Farm 3696 Highway 18 Fennimore, Wi. 
For all three Wisconsin meetings, the contact is Bill Maksymowicz at bill.maks @yahoo.com or 615 212 0508.