Wednesday, May 7, 2014

LIQUID NICOTINE PRODUCTION IS NOW A REALITY IN THE U.S.


Brian Furnish (File Photo)
Liquid nicotine for e-cigarettes is now being produced on a commercial scale in the United States. The manufacturer is USA Liquid Nicotine, with extraction facilities in Albany, Ga., and buying and marketing offices in Harrisburg, Ky. Managing partner Brian Furnish, a farmer who served several years as general manager of Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association in Lexington, Ky., says the company is acquiring American burley and is selling pure liquid nicotine extracted from it. "We believe we are the first company using American leaf to produce liquid nicotine in this country," Furnish tells TFN. Demand has been very good. "We have sold everything we have extracted. We will try to ramp up production in the near future, if possible." So far, Furnish says they have only used air-cured leaf, mainly burley, because of its higher nicotine content relative to flue-cured and other types. It is cured normally, then individual leaves are stripped and co collected for the extraction process. To date, all has been from Kentucky.

How big of a market could liquid nicotine be for American farmers? Furnish doesn't know, but he thinks if could be quite large. "All the major U.S. cigarette companies have committed to manufacturing  e-cigarettes ," he says.
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"It will take a lot of tobacco to produce the liquid nicotine they will need." He thinks liquid nico-tine from American leaf will have a big competitive advan-tage because of the high quality stan-dards in this coun-try compared to China, India and Europe, the current major sources of e-cigarette nicotine. "Our tobacco is ful-ly traceable," Fur-nish says. Future growers will need to be prepared to adopt practices tailored to liquid nicotine pro-duction. Among the areas where new recommendations may have to be developed are choice of varieties on the basis of nicotine content, use of a newly designed fertility scheme and timing of topping and suckering. Watch for more details on this topic in future issues of TFN. 

A farmer in north Florida plows his flue-cured in late April. See Reports from the Field, below. Photo courtesy J. Michael Moore.

REPORTS FROM THE FIELD, MAY 2014
Kentucky: In the area around Mt. Sterling in the Bluegrass, little planting had taken place as of April 29, says burley grower Ford Patterson. "The planting date will probably be 10 days to two weeks behind normal due to the weather." The weather also appeared to have caused a short supply of plants, he says. "I have had calls from growers trying to find plants," he says. "One grower asked for 30 acres. But most were just looking for a few acres. They were afraid that they will fall short in their own plant production due to low germination and other weather related problems." Most, if not all, commercial growers in the area had sold out, he had learned. "The owner of one large plant producer said he may have extra plugs in a few weeks," Patterson says. "But these wouldn't be large enough to set until pretty late"...Near Louisville, Ky., burley grower Matthew Bush says, "A few days ago conditions were ideal, but now (April 30) we are drowned out and wet." But there didn't seem to be a plant shortage in that area, he says. "We should have some plants ready by May 9. But no one is in too much of a hurry to plant."
  
Kentucky-Tennessee: The 2014 dark air- and fire-cured crop could be the biggest combined crop since 2008. "There has been an increase in contracted pounds for both dark air cured and fire-cured," says Andy Bailey, KY-TN Extension dark tobacco specialist. Why? Bailey says it may reflect a cycle in inventory management by the manufacturers. "Dark air-cured contracts have been declining the last several years," he says. "Unless there has been a change in blends, the buyers were going to have to pick back up sometime. Maybe now is the time." Bailey has seen more spiral roots than normal. "Normal is about three percent but what we have now is from six percent to nine percent." The cloudy days and low light could lead to early flowering later, he added.
  
South Carolina: In the Pee Dee, farmers are still setting. "But most of our plants are out," says William Hardee, area Extension agronomy agent in Conway, S.C. "Nearly all our fields got off to a late start. I think everyone will get enough plants, but there will be few left over." There was an unusual problem in some greenhouses this season. "We would see a few plants that would overshadow and outgrow the smaller plants around them," say Hardee. "As a result, the grower wouldn't get the stand he was hoping for." It seemed to be caused by the many rainy and cloudy days the area experienced. "The plants just didn't seem to get enough sunlight."

Georgia-Florida: Transplanting in Florida is complete, and some farmers are plowing their tobacco, says J. Michael Moore, GA-FL Extension tobacco specialist. In Georgia, transplanting will probably continue to May 15 or close to it.

In other news:
A popular fertilizer product makes a comeback: After an absence from the market of 11 years, SQM is reintroducing what was formerly called "Soda Potash 15-0-14." It will now be called "Sodium Potassium Nitrate," and the analysis has changed slightly, to 15-0-15. As in the past, its nitrogen will be 100% nitrate nitrogen, and its potassium is chlorine free. It still has the pink color that growers recognized over the years. Supplies for this season will be limited, says George Simpson Jr., regional manager of Yara North America, and it will only be available in bulk and bulk bags. If you are interested, contact your dealer soon.  
   
Dates to remember:
  • May 23, 10 a.m. GAP Certification Meeting. Hancock Health Department, 178 Willow St., Sneedville, Tn.  Contact: 423-733-2526.
  • July 14-16. N.C. Tobacco Tour. Details to follow.
  • July 31. Virginia Tobacco Field Day. Southern Piedmont AREC, Blackstone, Va.
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Editor's note: Tobacco Farmer Newsletter is edited and distributed by Chris Bickers of Raleigh, N.C. You may contact him at 919-789-4631 or chrisbickers@gmail.com. Please contact him if you would like to receive TFN sent directly to your email inbox. All those interested in the betterment of tobacco farmers are welcome to subscribe. There is no cost.--Chris Bickers 
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