The transplanters are rolling in Johnston County, N.C., a major flue-cured county and most of the Tobacco Belt. Johnston Extension Director Bryant Spivey tells Tobacco Farmer Newsletter that some flue-cured was set starting on April 10 but transplanting didn't really get going in earnest until yesterday. "The peak period will be from now till May 5," he says. "We might have gotten in sooner but it's been wet and there are still some wet spots." The timing is a little later than normal but not by much. The only growers likely to be affected are those with large operations who are trying to spread planting out over a longer period in order to extend the harvest period.
"There were a few days when the low temperatures fell to 32 degrees," says Matthew Vann, N.C. specialist. Some farmers had started setting by then, and they may have encountered some frost or freeze issues. However, we haven't heard of any yet." Tobacco transplanted from April 10 to April 15 in Johnston County seems to have survived the cold snap, says Spivey. "The stands are good so far. But the cool temperatures may result in more premature flowering and ground suckers"...Those who haven't started probably will this week or the next. "But some may delay a little longer waiting for warmer temperatures and dryer soils." The bulk of this crop will be set out a little later than normal. "You might say the crop is a week or two behind. But that certainly isn't anything to worry about, especially in the east where we have such a large planting window. From Winston-Salem west, there might be a little more concern."
It's been a hard season for plant production, with the cold and with more cloudy days than usual. "The supply of plants is a little tight, maybe five or 10 percent short of what was planned," says Vann. Spivey says farmers in Johnston County had a little more success in the greenhouse. "I would say we are four to five percent down in useable transplants compared to a a normal year," he says. "But the plants we have are very healthy, and I believe the supply is adequate but close. There is no excess to be had"...Transplanting remains in the future in Kentucky. "I don't think we have many plants ready to set out, and many aren't even close," says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. "We got a late start on seeding because of the the cold weather and the price of propane. I would say we are about a week to 10 days behind normal. Now the soil temperatures are low which may delay transplanting further."
The potassium sulfate shortage is for real. And the shortage is taking place at the point of origin, it seems. Pearce says that if a dealer was slow to place his order for this season, he may not have any for his customers. It is not clear what the reasons for the shortage are, and perhaps more will become available later. "We may be able to do a split application if that is the case," Pearce says. If you decide to use an alternative sources of potassium, be careful not to apply too much chlorine, says Vann of N.C. "Chlorine toxicity is a result of excessive chloride accumulation [in flue-cured] and will result in a decrease in leaf yield and quality as well as very poor smoke flavor," says Vann. The quality decrease and smoke problems also occur in burley where too much chlorine has been applied, says Pearce, but yield losses are rare in the heavier soils that burley is typically grown on.
The Palmer's amaranth problem is not going away either. Vann reminds that Spartan is probably the best herbicide weapon against it in tobacco. "If you still have the option of applying Spartan to this crop, it could keep amaranth seed at bay," he says. The Chinese have objected to amaranth seed they found in leaf they bought here and don't want to see any more.
Canada contracts for slightly more pounds. Canadian tobacco growers, all in Ontario, signed contracts with the industry for flue-cured production close to the 2013 level. Licenses have been issued to 241 growers--two fewer than last year--for total plantings of 21,000 acres. The projected yield is 57 million pounds, slightly more than the actual harvest of 56.2 million pounds last year but nine percent below the contracted production of a year ago. The 2013 crop was plagued by a cold spring, some frost, rains that delayed planting, and a very cold stretch in September, according the Ontario Tobacco Marketing Board, which administers the contracting program. Fred Neukamm, farmer-chairman of the board, told the Brantford (Ontario) Expositor that this year's retraction is disappointing but no cause for alarm. "That reduction caught us a bit by surprise but the number of growers hasn't changed much," he said. "The buyers have told us any reductions are the result of normal adjustments."
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