Sunday, June 3, 2012


In Virginia, flue-cured plantings are nearly finished. David Reed, Virginia Extension tobacco specialist, says no more than five percent in his state remains to be planted. "Except for a few cases where weather held farmers back, most of the acreage that remains belongs to farmers who have a tradition of planting relatively late," he says. "On the other hand, some of our flue-cured was laid by this week, and a lot more will be next week"... By May 29, the crop reporting service estimated that all but about four percent of North Carolina flue-cured was transplanted. Florida, Georgia and South Carolina have all finished... The Virginia dark fire-cured crop is perhaps 85 percent transplanted, says Reed. In Appomattox County, planting of the dark crop was well ahead of normal at the end of May, says Extension tobacco agent Bruce Jones. "We should be done next week." Field conditions were dry to begin with, but rains on May 29 helped. Acreage looks to be similar to last year: R.J. Reynolds apparently reduced contracted acreage, but Lancaster Leaf increased enough to offset it.

In Virginia, the dominant burley variety in the mountain counties may soon be KT 206, says Danny Peek, Va. Extension burley specialist. "It is high yielding and has good resistance to the two strains of black shank," he explains. Virginia growers had transplanted 68 percent of their crop by May 29... In the other two Appalachian burley-producing states, North Carolina growers had transplanted 82 percent of their crop by May 29, and Tennessee growers had transplanted 56 percent (that included the dark types as well as burley).

The Pennsylvania tobacco crop is well ahead of schedule compared to any recent season, says Graybill. "About 80 percent of the four types we grow was planted by the end of May. Normally, we would expect only 40 to 50 percent." One grower finished planting his 18 acres of Pennsylvania seedleaf on May 30. "He said he has never finished planting in May before!" says Graybill. Greenhouse plants may get scarce as transplanting winds down, but that shouldn't be too much of a problem. About a third of the state's plants are produced in traditional plantbeds. "We can usually stretch the supply of plants from beds if we have to," Graybill says.

Once again, nothing to report on U.S. Grower Direct. The press conference that was promised by USGD staff members a month ago has not taken place, no one has reported to me that they have signed a contract with the company and I assume that since transplanting is now so far along, it is unrealistic to think a significant contracting effort can be mounted. If anyone knows different, please call me at 919 789 4631.

The proliferation of secondary markets
 in the last few seasons--like the silent auctions for flue-cured in Wilson, N.C., and the conventional auctions in Rural Hall, N.C., and several locations in Kentucky--was inevitable, says Rick Smith, a leaf dealer in Wilson. "Even back when we had the program, there were secondary buyers. Sooner or later, some means would have had to be devised to sell tobacco produced beyond the contracted amount, or produced within the contract but failing to meet quality requirements."

An old-style auction still operates in North Carolina: For the third year, a warehouse 10 miles north of Winston-Salem will hold auctions for flue-cured and a little burley this season. You don't need a contract, just show up, says Dennis White, manager of Old Belt Tobacco Sales in Rural Hall. He will hold sales every Tuesday once contract delivery stations open. You can deliver tobacco Monday through Friday. This is an old-fashioned auction with buyers--all dealers--signaling their bids with their hands and voices, not electronic hand sets. "We sold five million pounds of both types in 2010 and 2.5 million pounds in 2011, when the hurricane reduced the tobacco available," says White. "Much of what we sell is contract tobacco that didn't meet company quality standards, or crop throw, or in excess of the contract." But he has sold some premium tobacco, and it brought contract prices. If you are interested in selling at Old Belt Tobacco Sales, call White on his cell at 336 416 6262.

A valuable resource is about to be lost: I for one am really going to miss the pointed analyses and the recommendations for action that the Blue Mold Forecast provided every time blue mold showed up over the years. Blue mold damage has been minor the last two seasons, but if we ever have another serious outbreak, everyone in the tobacco business is going to wish the webpage was still fully functioning. I remember so well walking through the burley fields near Asheville, N.C., with Furney Todd in 1979, trying to find a plant that did not have blue mold. That's a scene I never want to see again, and the Forecast Webpage has helped prevent it. Doggone it! This service couldn't cost that much. I challenge the industry and grower associations to free up a few funds, then contact N.C. Extension plant pathologist Mina Mila, who leads the forecast team. Let's get this worthy effort fully functional again. If I can help--and who knows, maybe I can--I will be glad to.

One other note on blue mold--Dr. Mila tells me that even without the forecast program, she still hopes to maintain the map of blue mold outbreaks that she's maintained over the years. So she hopes that the correspondents who have alerted her to outbreaks of the disease will continue to report to her.

Dates to remember: 
  • A Celebration for Retiring NCSU Dean Johnny C. Wynne, McKimmon Center, 1101 Gorman St., Raleigh, N.C. June 12, 6:30. For more information, go to
  • Georgia-Florida Tobacco Tour, June 11-13. Begins with dinner in Lake City, Fl., continues to Waycross the next night and ends in Broxton, Ga., noon, June 13. For information, call 229-386-3006.
  • South Carolina Tobacco Tour, July 10. Starts at the Pee Dee Research and Education Center in Florence, S.C., 8 a.m. For information, call 843-662-3526.
  • North Carolina Tobacco Tour: July 23, 24 and 25. Ends in Danville, Va. For information, call 919-515-0459.
  • Virginia Farm Tour and Field Day, July 26. Starts in Danville, Va., and ends with an evening program at the Southern Piedmont Center in Blackstone, Va. For information, call 434-292-5331.


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