REPORTS FROM THE FIELD, July 8, 2014
Burley in central Kentucky is doing well, says grower Roger Quarles of Georgetown, Ky. "It looks as good as you could ever want it to look," he says. "The early-set tobacco is a week or 10 days from topping, and the later-set looks good too." He said he hadn't heard of a single instance of black shank in the area, not even in fields that have been hotbeds for the disease in the past. He expects harvest to start around August 1.
Topping has just started for dark growers in Kentucky and Tennessee. Planting appears to be done. "Some dark tobacco was set out on June 30 near Murray, Ky.," said Andy Bailey, Kentucky-Tennessee tobacco specialist. "I think that was the last that will be planted. A lot of our larger growers finished 10 to 12 days ago." No serious crop problems had developed. He saw some temporary phosphorus deficiency on some of the lower leaves, but he predicted that the plants would recover completely. There was no plant shortage. "I am not aware of anyone who didn't get enough plants," he says.
Just enough plants in Tennessee: Jay Head of Clarksville, Tn.,who grows dark tobacco and burley, also produces commercial plants. He thinks farmers in his area were able to locate the plants they needed. But it was close. "I sold the last plants I intended to sell on July 3," he says. "When we were done, we only had 100 trays left, out of about 6,000."
Hurricane Arthur only affected some coastal counties in North Carolina. In Pender County, 30 to 50 mile per hour winds did some damage, says Mark Seitz, Pender County Extension agent. But in general, he says, "Arthur's worst went north." Drought was more widely reported last week. "Tobacco is very stressed and drawn up," said Brian Parrish, Harnett County Extension agent, in an NASS report. "Many farmers are beginning to irrigate their tobacco." In the same report, Joey Knight, Caswell County Extension, said black shank is showing up in tobacco fields in his Piedmont county, especially in the 326 variety...A little harvesting has taken place in eastern N.C. Most farmers have applied a couple of contacts and are getting close to MH application, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. The supply of plants was adequate but some had to be brought in from out of state, he says. "But in the Piedmont, we heard of farmers having extra plants."
Some growers started harvesting in South Carolina last week, but most, at least in the Pee Dee region, are still topping. "Generally, the crop looks pretty good," says William Hardee, area Extension agronomy agent for Horry and Marion counties. "We have some tobacco that looks great around the Green Sea and Nichols area (near the North Carolina line). Some is chest high now." But other tobacco doesn't look so good. "Some looks like it was stunted by the heavy rainfall," Hardee says. There have been few problems. "I have seen a bit of tomato spotted wilt virus and a little bacterial wilt and black shank, but not much," he says.
Extreme heat is making it difficult for Georgia and Florida growers to apply sucker control chemicals, says J. Michael Moore, Extension tobacco specialist for the two states. And that is not all that is making this crop difficult in the Deep South. "Heavy infestations of black shank continue to occur," Moore says. "We see plants melt down more quickly now than normal, again because of the heat." A curious note: "There's been extensive damage this season in fields that had reasonable rotations," says Moore. "And it doesn't seem to matter what the variety is."
The four types grown in Pennsylvania all got off to a good start, says Jeff Graybill, Pa. agronomy Extension educator. "I would describe the condition of the tobacco crop as good to excellent," says Graybill, who is stationed in Lancaster. "We have good uniform stands, and I have had very few calls on disease issues." The supply of plants was tight, but Graybill says as far as he knows, no fields went unplanted. He estimates acreage at close to 9,000, a little more than last year. Burley accounted for more than 3,000 acres, Southern Maryland for about 3,000, Pennsylvania seedleaf around 2,500 and Green River dark air-cured perhaps 300 acres. Green River is still relatively new in Pennsylvania, but Graybill says farmers have been successful in producing marketable leaf of this type.
OUTSIDE THE U.S...
Zimbabwe will exceed 200 million kilograms in sales for the first time in quite a while, if it hasn't already. Auction and contract markets in Zimbabwe are well on their way to selling the country's largest crop in 14 years, said the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) last month. TIMB said that 193.1 million kilograms had been sold at the country's three auction floors and at contract facilities through the eightieth day of marketing (June 16), 32 percent more than in the same period last year. At least 125 total sales days are expected. If daily sales average--as expected--a million kilograms a day, the total would come in at around 230 million kilograms. That would be short of the previous high of 260 million kilograms in 1998 but better than the 227 million kilograms of 2000, the last time volume exceeded 200 million.
The Canadian flue-cured crop is up and growing, says Fred Neukamm, chairman of the Ontario tobacco board. "We are three to four weeks from topping," he says. "The crop is about on schedule, or maybe a few days behind. It is getting to the point that we could use some rain. Some growers are beginning to irrigate." Because of the cold and the cloudy weather experienced this winter, the plants didn't "toughen" in the greenhouse. "But in the field, the crop is not too bad, considering." Production is expected to be down slightly from 2013. "Both acreage and poundage are down by six percent, and two fewer growers contracted to grow tobacco this year," he says.
Ontario growers have benefited considerably since Grand River Enterprises (GRE) began selling leaf to China two years ago. The company, which processes leaf in a factory in Simcoe, Ont., is owned by the Six Nations Indian reservation, which is located on the edge of the Ontario leaf production area. GRE is now the number two buyer of Ontario leaf, after Alliance One.
Who will own Lorillard? Or RJR? Or Santa Fe? The speculation has been rife in recent months about possible sales or mergers of cigarette companies neighboring or associated with RJR. A respected tobacco financial analyst has predicted that an acquisition of Lorillard by RJR is all but a sure thing. Bonnie Herzog of Wells Fargo Securities says she believes there is a 90 percent chance it will happen. She also thinks that such a deal could result in a sale or spinoff of RJR's subsidiary Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, which could be worth as much as $6 billion, about 166 percent more than what Reynolds paid for it.
Still another possibility: British American might buy more of R.J. Reynolds' stock than the 42 percent it currently owns. It could potentially buy a controlling share, assuming regulatory agencies approve.
DATES TO REMEMBER
- July 10, 8:15 a.m. South Carolina Tobacco Tour, Pee Dee Research and Education Center, 2200 Pocket Rd., Florence, S.C. The tour will end at 3:30 in Sumter County.
- July 14, 3 p.m. N.C. Tobacco Tour. Edwards Farm, 200 Salem Church Rd., Wendell, N.C. 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m. Welcome Dinner (registration required), Fargo Cattle Company, 1007 Shepard School Rd,, Zebulon, N.C.
- July 15, 8 a.m. N.C. Tobacco Tour. Upper Coastal Plain Research Station, 2811 Nobles Mill Pond Rd, Rocky Mt., N.C. Ends with lunch at noon.
- July 30, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Virginia Tobacco Field Day. Southern Piedmont AREC, Blackstone, Va. Contact: Margaret Kenny, 434-292-5331 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- July 31, 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Grains and Tobacco Field Day. UK REC, Princeton, Ky. Contact: 270-365-7541 ext 264.
- August 4-5. Lexington, Kentucky. Tobacco Industry Tour. Contact: Bob Pearce, (859) 257-5110.
- August 7, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tobacco Twilight Tour, Murray State University West Farm, Murray, Ky. Contact: Andy Bailey, tobacco specialist, at 270-365-7541 ext. 240.