Thursday, July 18, 2013

The crop that washed away?

A wet burley field near Greeneville, Tn.

Reports of yield loss resulting from the heavy rains keep piling up. I spoke to a flue-cured grower near Kinston, N.C., in the Eastern Belt July 14. He told me that his tobacco has already lost one pulling because of all the water. "And now some of our fields are yellowing," he said. "Those plants won't put on the size. Some of our tobacco has flopped and won't be harvested. It looks to me like we will lose 25 percent of the crop in this area." Most of the damage came from near-daily rains starting June 17 and continuing till July 13 and amounted to 20 inches. There was especially heavy rain on July 11 and 12. But July 14 and 15 were sunny.

The situation may be even worse in southern Ohio and parts of Kentucky. After several days of off-and-on showers that saturated the soil, the area experienced heavy rainfall over the Independence Day break. When a warm sunny day followed, drowning damaged tobacco on several farms in the Ohio counties of Adams and Brown, Ohio. Making matters worse, scalding caused some quality loss, and much of the tobacco that is damaged may not be worth harvesting. "If tobacco was topped and only a couple of weeks from a normal harvest, you may be able to salvage enough of the crop by harvesting," says Ohio Extension Educator David Dugan. "But not tobacco that [was] not even in bloom yet."

Parts of Kentucky experienced similar conditions and in some cases suffered a 10% percent loss. "We have lost a portion our acreage to drowning after the big rains on July 4, 5 and 6," says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. "Planting intentions in the state were in the range of 75,000 acres. But wet weather may have prevented some plantings, so we may have planted about 72,000 acres."

Speaking of plantings, I have received some respectful disagreement with some of the acreage projections from USDA that I included in the last issue. S.C. Extension tobacco specialist Dewitt Gooden emailed me last week saying, "I do not believe the USDA projected acreage of 9,000 is correct for S.C. I have been told by very reliable sources that our acreage is up five to 10 percent from 2012." Estimating acreage last year at 12,000 acres, that would put 2013 plantings at between 12,600 acres and 13,200 acres...I had the chance to talk to Georgia Extension tobacco specialist J. Michael Moore last night on the N.C. Tobacco Tour, and he still insists that the USDA projection of 15,000 planted acres is way too high. He continues to estimate plantings of 11,000 acres...In N.C., Extension tobacco specialist Loren Fisher estimates acreage at between the USDA projection of 170,000 acres and 175,000 acres.

A new leader for flue-cured growers: The U.S. Tobacco Cooperative, which serves flue-cured growers, has a new board chairman. He is grower James T. (Jimmy) Hill of Kinston, N.C., who was elected in May. It also has a new board member representing South Carolina, Dwight Stevens of Loris. Both positions were held for many years by Albert Johnson of Galivants Ferry, S.C. 

China opens an office: Johnson has since joined the staff of China Tobacco International of North America, a new division of CTIEC, the Chinese national tobacco company. It will establish an office in coming months in the Raleigh, N.C., area. Observers believe the company will try to buy flue-cured tobacco from this crop but I haven't been able to confirm this. "The company likely will buy from both leaf dealers and farmers [when it begins buying]," says Peter Thornton, assistant director for international marketing with the N.C. Department of Agriculture, who says a U.S. office was a logical next step in China Tobacco's import process. "The U.S. is the last major tobacco supplier where China doesn't have a company." Steve Troxler, N.C. agriculture commissioner, says, "My staff and I have been working to boost exports of tobacco for several years now, and we think CTI's presence in our state will mean even more opportunities for our farmers."

Opening dates: The U.S. Tobacco Cooperative has announced opening dates for its delivery stations. They are:
  • Nashville, Ga.-July 23.
  • Mullins, S.C.-July 25.
  • Smithfield, N.C.-July 30.
  • Wilson, N.C.-August 1.
  • Oxford, N.C.-August 7.
Danville, Va.-August 13.

New leaders for the Council for Burley Tobacco: Rod Kuegel of Owensboro, Ky., is the new president of the Council for Burley Tobacco. Other officers are Scott Travis of Cox's Creek, Ky., vice president; Hampton Henton of Versailles, Ky., Secretary, and Eddie Warren of Richmond, Ky., treasurer. They were elected at the Council's recent annual meeting in Lexington, Ky. A new board of directors was also elected. Besides Kuegel, Travis, Henton and Warren, they are David Chappell of Sparta, Ky.; Todd Clark of Lexington, Ky.; Greg Harris of Richmond, Ky.; Al Pedigo of Scottsville, Ky.; Shane Wiseman of Winchester, Ky.; Bob James of Lexington, Ky., and Kenneth Reynolds of Abingdon, Va.

Tobacco tours coming up in the next 30 days:

  • The S.C. Tobacco Tour starts with registration at 8:15 a.m., Tuesday, July 23, at the Tobacco Facility at the back of the Pee Dee Research and Education Center near Florence. Later, the tour will visit a farm using a wood-fired boiler for curing. The tour will end in midafternoon. For more information, contact Dewitt Gooden at 843-662-3526 or by email at  dgooden@clemson.edu
  • The Virginia Tobacco Field Day will be held at the Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research & Extension Center (two miles east of Blackstone on Rt. 40) on August 6. After a dinner at 5 p.m., the field day will begin at 6 p.m., ending about 8:30 p.m. Note: A forage and livestock field day will be held August 7 starting at 9 a.m. For more information, go to Margaret Kenny at 434-292-5331 or makenny@vt.edu.
  • The Kentucky Corn, Soybean and Tobacco Field Day will be held August 1 from 7:30 a.m. until noon at the UK Research Farm in Princeton. An irrigation forum will follow at 1:30 p.m. For more information, contact Andy Bailey at 270-365-7541, ext. 240. 
  • Cross Creek Seed Inc. will hold a variety tour on Wednesday, August 7, starting at 9 a.m. at Seven Springs Baptist Church, 5924 NC 55 East, Seven Springs, N.C. 28578. Visitors will caravan to the nearby farm of Mack Grady and see various varieties, then will end up back at the church for lunch. You will be able to see the new variety Cross Creek is so high on: CC 143, which features good resistance to black shank (both races) and Granville wilt along with yield and grade indexes comparable or better than K 326. Call Cross Creek Seed at 877-922-7333 if you plan to attend.  


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