Thursday, November 16, 2017
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
Friday, October 27, 2017
The last USDA production estimate for 2017 was issued earlier this month. It included extremely optimistic estimates for flue-cured, burley and the two dark types. But several normally reliable sources have suggested that the projections--especially for Kentucky burley and N.C. flue-cured--may be way too high. Take the USDA projections (following) for what they seem to be worth and I will try to get a more credible report in the next issue of Tobacco Farmer Newsletter about a week from now.
- North Carolina--374.9 million pounds, up nine percent.
- Virginia--49.5 million pounds, up two percent.
- Georgia--25 million pounds, down 12 percent.
- South Carolina--22.8 million pounds, down seven percent.
- All flue cured--472.2 million pounds, up 9.8 per cent.
- Kentucky--132.3 million pounds, up 23.9 percent.
- Tennessee--18 million pounds, up 11.1 percent.
- Pennsylvania -- 11.25 million pounds, down 9.8 per cent.
- Virginia--2.36 million pounds, down 6.1 percent.
- North Carolina--1.7 million pounds, down five percent.
- All burley--165.6 million pounds, up 18.5 percent.
FIRE-CURED--57.9 million pounds, up 46.5 percent.
DARK AIR-CURED--19.44 million pounds, up 94 percent.
PENNSYLVANIA SEEDLEAF--4 million pounds, up four percent.
SOUTHERN MARYLAND--2.5 million pounds, no change.
In other tobacco news...
Flue-cured growers and many with a sentimental attachment to the type came to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh on October 13 to celebrate this year's crop. Flue-cured leaf was brought down from the nearby Oxford Research Station to provide the basic material for the fair's annual tobacco-tying contest. As the contestants tied their leaf on strings, several growers reviewed their experiences growing bright tobacco in 2017.
Hustling to finish harvest: Carl Watson, the tobacco research specialist responsible for growing the crop at the Oxford, research station, said he expected that harvest on the station would continue until the end of thisweek. "That's quite late for us," he said. Several farmers north of the station are still harvesting too. I have seen some of them 'borrowing' barns from neighbors who are finished, to speed things up. But if we can avoid extremely cold weather, I think this crop will all get out of the field." It got dry during harvest, said Watson. "We were having a problem of bruising of the leaves. So, we quit harvesting for a time and watered again."
Good quality: Sam Crews of Oxford, N.C., said poundage was down on his farm. "But it was generally good quality. The top of the stalk looked good. I am sure this crop will fare well in foreign markets."
Lowerstalk short: Thomas Shaw of Henderson, N.C., north of Durham, said his crop was average. "The wet weather early was a problem, but we overcame that." Heat late in the season delayed harvest, and he finished October 11, late for his area. "We are a little short on pounds, due to the weather extremes. The heat early took its toll, leaving us a little short on lower stalk leaf. Then at harvest, some fields were too wet and some too dry. Selling this crop has been a challenge."
Harvest of the Kentucky burley crop is probably complete by now, says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. "But some of it hasn't been in the barn long." Difficulty obtaining labor slowed harvest on some farms, and tropical storms slowed some others. "Still, we had a favorable stretch of weather to get the last of the crop in, and curing got off to a good start." Curing seems to be going fairly well for the first tobacco that was harvested early. But the later-harvested could face a problem if temperatures turn downward. "An average of 60 to 90 degrees is ideal for curing," says Pearce. "If it is lower, you run the risk of curing green."
Editor's Noter: I hope you have enjoyed the October II issue of Tobacco Farmer Newsletter. If you haven't signed on to receive the newsletter to your email address, or if you need to change an address, please call me at 919-789-4631 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.--Chris Bickers
Sunday, October 8, 2017
CROP CONDITIONS AFTER IRMA
NC: Hurricane Irma did little damage to North Carolina burley or flue-cured, even though there was more tobacco still in the field in early September than is normal, said Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "The rains we received were light compared to Georgia and Florida," he said. "We dodged a bullet"...Holdability was an issue in flue-cured resulting from those rains that did fall, along with many days of 90-degree high temperatures. "We have some tobacco struggling to 'hold' in the field," says Vann. "As a result, it is too early to make a prediction of volume. But if anything, it might be a little below average." Note: An early frost could be a disaster for N.C. flue-cured growers this year. "But if it comes around the normal date, I think farmers will be able to get their crop in," Vann said.
VA: Much of the flue-cured crop was still in the field when Irma passed through, but the state was spared the heaviest rains. Now, rain would be welcome. "It's dry--we could use some rain," says Extension agent Lindy Tucker In Lunenburg County in the Piedmont. "[But] tobacco is coming along." USDA estimates that 92 percent of the state's flue-cured tobacco had been harvested by October 1.
GA, FL and SC: Harvest is complete. For more on Irma in Georgia, see below.
KY: There had been an extended late season heat wave but it finally ended on September 27 with the passage of a strong cold front through the area, USDA said. USDA reported that 88 percent of the crop had been harvested and 12 percent had been stripped. Some houseburn was reported.
TN: Temperatures had also been unseasonably warm in much of Tennessee but cooled considerably the last few days of September. No precipitation for over two weeks had resulted in extremely dry conditions. "Very dry weather," reports Extension agent Chris Ramsey in Sullivan County, Tn. USDA estimated 85 percent had been harvested.
NC: Hurricane Irma was not a factor at the Upper Mountain Research Station. Superintendent Tracy Taylor says, "We had some rain--maybe two inches--and there were strong winds, but the tobacco got through it just fine." All the station burley is now hung in barns and appears to have potential for good quality. "And I think the yield will be fine," he says. "We were late getting planted, but the crop caught up and turned out well." He expects it will be graded around Christmas. In Yancey County, Extension agent Stanley Holloway says, "Burley producers are concerned with the less-than-ideal curing conditions resulting in a lot of variegated cured leaf color." USDA estimated 61 percent of the state burley crop was harvested by October 1.
VA: Cutting and barning was proceeding in southwest Virginia. "Harvest progress slowed a bit due to rain from Hurricane Irma," says Kevin Spurlin, agriculture agent in Grayson County. "But effects from the storm itself were minimal."
In other tobacco news...
No dicamba disaster in 2017: There were only eight complaints of dicamba drift damage on tobacco in North Carolina this year, Professor Alan York of North Carolina State University was reported as saying at the Blackland Cotton Field Day in Belhaven, N.C., last month. York suggested that a mandatory buffer might be appropriate around tobacco plantings and said he would support tighter record keeping, including time of day of spraying, wind speed and direction, along with estimated distance to tobacco. "That will not keep someone from spraying beside a tobacco field if they want to, but perhaps it would make them think twice," he said in Southeast Farm Press.
Assessing the hurricane damage: Still no hard numbers of dollar loss by tobacco growers to Hurricane Irma, but Georgia was by far the hardest hit. Georgia Extension tobacco specialist J. Michael Moore provided this report on the effects in his state. "We estimate that we lost 15 percent of the crop in Georgia to the storm in the form of leaves dropped in the field. There will probably be additional losses in the form of lowered quality in the leaves that survived and those in curing barns where power was interrupted.
Irma passed through Georgia on Monday September 11. Many areas reported six to 10 inches of rainfall with wind speeds of 50 to 70 mph. As much as 30 percent of the crop remained in the fields at that time. Harvesting continued until Saturday night. Sunday was breezy, with rain starting late in the afternoon in Tifton. "Generally, from 50 percent to 60 percent of the leaves still on the stalks were blown off, and others were bruised and torn as they whipped in the wind." Some leaf had to be abandoned because it deteriorated rapidly after the rains of Irma. Harvesting was finished by September 27.
It could have been worse: The losses would have been higher except that many farmers had purchased or rented generators to keep their curing barns going. Without these, the barns would have shut off when the electricity went out and the leaf could have suffered damage before it went back on.
Planting restraint urged in Brazil: The tobacco growers association of Brazil urged growers this spring to reduce plantings for the 2017/18 crop if they can. if not, they should plant no more than in the year just ended. Benicio Werner, president of the national organization, AFUBRA, said there is a worldwide decrease in consumption. "We cannot let farmers produce a quantity of tobacco that the market does not absorb," he said in an interview with Radio Gazeta. His recommendation--588.5 thousand tons of all types, including 520 thousand tons of flue-cured, 60 thousand tons of burley and 8.5 thousand tons of common "shed." The volume of the 2016/17 crop has been estimated at 695 thousand tons.
Grower numbers in Zimbabwe nearly triple: The number of growers who have registered to grow tobacco in 2017/18 has risen to 21.331 from 7,131 in 2016/2017, a 199 percent increase, according to the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board.Farmers in Zimbabwe seem to have been satisfied with the average price of $2.97 per kilo that tobacco sold for this season and the 185.6 kgs that they produced and sold.
The demand for Malawian burley in the coming season is 130,000 tons, said the Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) of Malawi in September. For flue-cured, it is 25,000 tons and for dark fire-cured it is 5,000 tons, for a total of 160,000 tons. That would be up from 152,000 tons in the season just ended but still less than the year before. TCC also said that Malawi sold 106,000 tons of tobacco out of the 152,000 produced this year, and it was worth US$212 million. The size of the crop is controlled through a system of registration of farmer intentions and issuance of production quotas.
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
A migrant harvest crew from Latin America hand picks flue-cured leaf on a farm near Raleigh, N.C., in this file photo by Chris Bickers.
An early frost in Kentucky could find much of the burley crop unharvested, says. grower-warehouseman Jerry Rankin of Danville, Ky. He has looked around at the progress of harvest and added up the number of workers available to finish the job--and he is concerned. "It's not so much that the crop is late, although some of it is. It is that we are behind in getting it cut and to the barn. Labor is too short to make up that difference before October 2, when we expect to get our first frost."
The labor crunch is also being felt in Tennessee and southwest Virginia, says Don Fowlkes, manager, agronomy, Burley Stabilization Corporation (BSC). "I think we will get this crop harvested and barned. But it would help if H2A arrivals were more dependable. There is little local labor and the productivity is reduced."
It seems likely that at least some of this Tennessee burley crop is not going to stay in the field long enough to achieve maximum yield. "Our farmers are not going to be able to wait," says Fowlkes. "It is a late crop, and they will have to harvest it a little early to get it all in before first frost." Normally, you like to leave tobacco in the field four to five weeks after topping. "But they might (but hopefully won't) have to cut some of this crop in three weeks or less," he says. Be prepared to close up your barn if it needs it, Fowlkes says. "With late hung tobacco, there is more risk of freeze damage," says Fowlkes. "And there is more risk of green color from cold winds. You want to be able to close the barn."
Burley prospects better: While the long-term outlook remains uncertain, the burley market is definitely in a more balanced position than it was at this time last year, says Daniel Green, chief operating officer, BSC. "The 2017 USA burley crop will likely end up in the range of 150-160 million pounds or just over 13.5 percent of total world production. It appears that world production of burley should total just over 1.1 billion pounds for 2017, more than 15 percent less than 2016." Based on current cigarette production, approximately 1.2 billion pounds of burley are currently needed worldwide to satisfy demand, resulting in a slight, short-term shortage. "African volumes will rebound quickly and any shortage that results in increased sales of flavor burley should be satisfied by the end of 2018."
Blown away? When the rain and wind of Hurricane Irma reached south Georgia on Sunday, perhaps 30 percent of the crop was still in the field, says J. Michael Moore, Extension tobacco specialist. By the time it passed through, maybe half had been blown down or had its leaves blown off or otherwise been rendered unsalvageable. And Moore wasn't too optimistic about what survived. "The leaves were beaten by the strong winds and that may cause them to mature so rapidly that farmers won't be able to pick them before they deteriorate. So it could be that very little of the remaining Georgia crop will make it to the buyer.
Florida was luckier. All of its tobacco was out of the field when the storm arrived, although some was still in the barn, says Moore.
Power outages as a result of the hurricane were the stuff of worldwide news reports. Loss of quality in barns that lost power were a serious threat to the tobacco in them, but many Georgia growers forestalled that problem by obtaining emergency generators of one type or another before the power went out, says Moore.
Diseases in the East: In eastern North Carolina, much of the upperstalk tobacco in the field is getting hammered by black rot, says Roy Thagard, Greene County Extension agent. Other diseases such as black shank and Granville wilt also continue to progress. "There is a fear that tobacco farmers will get poor grades for their tobacco going forward," Thagard says...In the Pied-mont, growers are harvesting tobacco as quick as barn space will allow, says Charles Mitchell, Franklin County, N.C., Extension agent. "We have seen an enormous amount of Granville wilt this year with some black shank as well." But there was one bit of good fortune: "We dodged a bullet when Hurricane Irma shifted westward," Mitchell says...In the mountains of western N.C., harvest of burley is nearly complete in Yancey County, says Stanley Holloway, County Extension agent... The season's first frost--a patchy one in some low-lying areas--took place on September 8 in Watauga County, in the N.C. mountains.
USDA issued its September Crop Report on September 12. But because it is based on a farmer survey conducted between August 25 and September 6, it is already out of date because storm activity. For the record, the production estimates for each type (but not the producing states) follow. Each projection is compared to the projection in the August report. Flue-Cured: 473 million pounds, up four percent from the August Crop Report. Burley: 160.5 million pounds, no change. Dark Fire-Cured: 59.6 million pounds, up seven percent. Dark Air-Cured: 20.3 million pounds, up 21 per cent. Southern Maryland: 4.5 million pounds, no change. Pennsylvania Seed leaf: 4.16 million pounds, no change.
Sunday, September 3, 2017
|The effects of flooding on burley, from 2013 storm.|
HOW TO HEAD OFF HURRICANE DAMAGE
Now is the time to think about--and take action to avoid--possible losses in the field and curing barns as a result of the hurricanes and/or storms that are on the way, says J. Michael Moore, Georgia-Florida Extension specialist. "We have growers expecting to be harvesting for four to five weeks," he says. "Even without a direct hit, outer bands from a hit north of us could result in massive losses of the best tobacco in the state."
While the natural tendency is to harvest as much as possible before any storm, you may want to think ahead and not harvest any more than you can cure before damaging winds arrive, Moore says. "Additionally, those same winds could result in downed power lines and interruption of power to curing barns filled with tobacco that cannot stand long periods of time without circulating air, heated or not."
If you have generators in place, it is possible to cycle on and off a single barn before moving to the next barn, and maybe the next, before returning to the first one allowing for enough air to complete the cure or keep the tobacco from being totally lost before power is restored.
Energy isn't the issue with air-cured barns. But Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist, suggested it might be a good idea to close up your burley barns if you are expecting very high winds along with rain, in order to keep the water out. "You would want to get right back out and open it up again once the weather has passed," he says. "You want to get the air moving again."
Dark tobacco harvest began over three weeks ago in the Black Patch, but most remains
in the field, says Andy Bailey, Extension dark tobacco specialist. This is beginning to look like a very big crop for both dark types, Bailey says, with the USDA estimates of 55 million pounds for fire-cured and 16 million for air-cured both seeming credible. "This crop is definitely better than last year and I would say probably better than the year before." The increase is a result both of better yields and of greatly increased plantings in response to buyer demand after the very short 2016 dark crop. Reduced tillage of one sort or another is definitely catching on in the Black Patch.
Bailey estimates that close to 40 percent of the acreage is now planted strip till. That would amount to about 9,000 acres. And no-till planting is also catching on, with probably 500 acres planted this way. "Most of this is in western Kentucky, with lesser amounts in northwest Tennessee. There is a savings on land preparation, and at harvest time, you are likely to have less dirt in the leaf because of the residue."
The Tennessee burley crop has a lot of potential, says Eric Walker, Extension tobacco specialist. In middle and northern Tennessee, harvesting is well under way but still has a way to go. The eastern counties of Tennessee are not as far along in harvest, but as of the last day of August, burley there still looked good. "But we got a lot of rain last night which resulted in some flooding," he adds...Through August 28, USDA estimated that 29 percent of Tennessee tobacco had been harvested.
The flue-cured tobacco that has been harvested so far in North Carolina seems to has cured pretty well, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "You would have to say the quality is good considering the stresses it went through," he says. Up till now, the leaf has been holding in the field. But that may be changing. "A lot of leaf is ripening very fast on the stalk," says Vann. "Farmers want to get the leaf out of the field and into the barn as fast as they can." Try to avoid any stress that will hasten ripening, he adds. "You sure don't want to agitate this crop."...Through August 28, USDA estimated that 47 percent of the N.C. flue-cured crop and 12 percent of the N.C. burley crop had been harvested.
With good weather, harvest of the South Carolina flue-cured crop may be complete in two weeks, says William Hardee, S.C. area Extension agronomy agent for the Pee Dee. Right now, his rough estimate is that 75-80 percent has been harvested... This season will be remembered for tomato spotted wilt that started early and kept coming well into the season. Horry and Marion counties averaged 40-50 percent spotted wilt infestation with some individual fields reaching up to 70 percent. "However, most of our growers have managed it well by sending folks ahead of the harvester to clean out the trash tobacco in the field, and having their barn help pick it out as well," says Hardee.
With all the skips in the rows, you also worry about the tobacco that's left having too much fertilizer and staying or curing green. "Fortunately, we have had consistent rainfall in most of this area, which has really helped us manage fertility and curability of this crop," says Hardee. "Even though we have lost some yield, the overall quality and weight of the tobacco has been very good so far."
Farmers are now getting some soilborne disease infestations, mostly bacterial wilt, says Hardee. "But with it coming a little later in the season, most growers have been able to stay ahead of it. I hope that will continue to be the case, but with all the rain we've had the last few weeks and the possibility of a hurricane, who knows?"
Fusarium shows up in Virginia: The fungal disease Fusarium wilt was identified on burley earlier in the summer. It was found in Scott County in the southwestern corner of Virginia. County Extension agent Scott Jerrell says, "This is highly unusual for burley in this area."
Early harvest in Virginia: Several flue-cured farmers in the southwestern Virginia county of Brunswick have finished pulling tobacco in some fields and have begun to prepare the land for fall/winter cover crops, according to county Extension agent Cynthia Gregg. USDA estimates 46 percent of the flue-cured had been harvested by the end of August, a little early for this state.