The N.C. Tobacco Tour begins at 3 p.m., Monday, July 20, with a curing demonstration in Wendell. It will continue on July 21 with tours of research at the Upper Coastal Plain Research Station near Rocky Mount (including black shank plots like those shown above in 2014) and at the Oxford Tobacco Research Station. See below for details on the N.C. Tour and also the Virginia Tobacco Research Field Day at the Southern Piedmont station, Blackstone, Va., on July 29.
Kentucky--Heavy rains that were scattered over much of the state have damaged the Kentucky burley crop by "a double digit percentage," says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. The rain fell almost daily in much of the state--one Extension tobacco agent reported that from July 1, rain had fallen 14 out of 15 days. "Some of the crop may recover if the weather improves, but as a whole, it is not likely to regain its full potential." But Pearce cautions against trying to salvage the crop by putting out a lot of fertilizer. "That will rarely solve the problem," he says. "But a light application of fertilizer at a rate of 25 pounds per acre of nitrogen might be appropriate." If leafspot diseases appear, Pearce recommends an application of Quadris at eight ounces per acre.
Tennessee--A report from the Extension Service in Smith County, near Nashville, says tobacco was hurt in some places from too much water as of July 12. "Producers were back in the fields toward the end of the week after being unable to do much due to rain the previous two weeks," says Chris Hicks, county tobacco agent.
North Carolina: In the East, the flue-cured crop is about two weeks behind schedule, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. Farmers are just now getting into harvest, whereas in a normal year they might have reached this point at the beginning of July. Much remains to be topped. Farmers are trying to be as timely as possible with sucker control applications. In the Piedmont, just a little harvesting is taking place, mainly in transition counties like Granville. It has been very dry, but this week there has been a little rain in Person, Alamance and Orange Counties. Harvest probably will last till close to the first frost...In Cleveland County in the foot hills of the Blue Ridge, tobacco is being topped and growth is good, says Stephen Bishop of the Cleveland County NRCS office. "Growers in the southern part of the county had been irrigating crops for over two weeks until they received rainfall (last) week," he says...In Surry County, it's reported that the crop looks good after an 0.6 inch of rain Tuesday morning. Topping is going full steam, and harvesting could begin within a week.
South Carolina--About 42 percent of the crop had been topped by July 12, according to USDA NASS. That was about half the five-year average for that date.
Virginia--In Lunenburg County, tobacco is growing like weeds, says Lindy Tucker, Extension tobacco agent. "We got a little rain this week and had several overcast days. We could probably use a little more, but we are thankful for that."
Florida--A farmer in Alachua County said in a newspaper interview recently that organic tobacco has attracted a much higher price than conventional on his farm. Trevor Bass of Newberry, Fl., said he is able to sell his organic flue-cured tobacco for about twice the amount of his regular leaf--as high as $4.15 per pound forthe highest quality organic compared to $2.22 for conventional. Bass told the Gainesville (Fl.) Sun that organic cigarettes have a more natural flavor, and they burn twice as long as regular cigarettes. "It's no more or less healthy, but the word sells," Bass said.
Kentucky-Tennessee--The Black Patch experienced excess rain in the two weeks ending around July 10, but it has since turned dry and there is considerable heat and humidity. "We have seen saturated soils, wet feet and some drowning," Andy Bailey, K-T Extension dark tobacco specialist. "We may have suffered as much as a 10 percent loss in production so far, but some of it could be recovered." On the other hand, crops on better drained soils that didn't get too much rain look good now, Bailey says. There could be another problem: Heavy winds caused damage in some areas. "That left stalks crooked which may make it difficult to use rundown application of sucker control chemicals," he says. "We might wind up using more MH than normal. Some farmers might try to apply conventional chemicals with a backpack but that is very labor intensive."
In other tobacco news:
A good early report on Presidio? A Piedmont N.C. reader obtained what he considers almost unbelievable results early in the season controlling black shank on his flue-cured using the newly labeled fungicide Presidio. In fact, it was so unbelievable that he wants to remain anonymous until the end of the season when he can be sure the results are credible. But he shared some details now: "We used the full rate of Presidio for black shank. We applied Presidio in the setter water and at the last cultivation and applied UltraFlourish at first cultivation, and it helped us get the best control we have had of black shank in four years." Normally, by mid July he would expect to see black shank "holes." "But there are not many at all this year," he says.
It is time to face the writing on the wall
By Rod Kuegel, President of the Council for Burley Tobacco
The demand for burley tobacco is in terminal decline worldwide. The industry has seen years of underproduction following the buyout. All that is changing, and we are reaching a level of oversupply that cannot be corrected. What does all this mean to you as a burley tobacco farmer? It means that there is no longer a guaranteed market for non-contracted tobacco. It means that you need to identify your market before planting the crop. It means that as growers we all need to work together to look at the future of our industry, to stop the overproduction of burley tobacco, and identify secure new markets for our product. We are unable to reverse the decline of the tobacco industry, but we can look at ways we can identify market opportunities. One of the first steps to curb overproduction is to work with the government to prevent insurance coverage on non-contract tobacco. This would help to address concerns of insurance fraud in the industry, as well as provide an incentive to farmers to identify secure markets before planting. We should also look at ways to differentiate our product to the consumer. One approach would be to encourage companies to provide source verification on each pack of cigarettes. It would give consumers a chance to identify where the tobacco was grown, verify that it was GAP-certified and document that it meets all child-labor laws and pesticide guidelines. We can no longer take the position "if I grow it there will be a market." We have to recognize that the market is changing. The demand for burley is not going to come around as it has in the past, and we must change our production practices. We have to step outside of our comfort zone and work with policy leaders, health advocates, and industry leaders to identify what the future will be for the burley tobacco farmer. (Editor's note: Rod Kuegel is a burley and dark tobacco grower in Owensboro, Ky. This editorial is a condensed version of a piece that appeared earlier on the council's webpage. To see the whole piece, go to www.councilforburleytobacco.com and click on News.)
HOW BURLEY GOT STARTED IN THE BLUE RIDGE
Before burley arrived, most people in the Carolina mountains were employed in what you would call subsistence farming, says Robert Shipley of Watauga County, N.C., a farmer who was born in 1912 and remembers the early era better than almost anybody still living. "They were self sufficient in food and produced pretty much what they ate. They killed hogs for their meat supply and would sometime kill cattle for beef. Everybody had a garden, and it was standard practice to preserve and can produce. So our folks didn't go hungry: They just weren't used to having a lot of money."
That changed after farmers learned about the potential of burley. It soon proved to be the only realistic choice as a cash crop, says Shipley. "We didn't have any other dependable cash crop in this area. That was the big reason that burley spread in the mountains."
But adoption wasn't immediate, Shipley remembers. It didn't really get going until a federal program was developed to stabilize production and marketing. "It led to an increase in price, so that farmers who grew it had some money left over after paying their expenses of growing tobacco. It was a good change, definitely. From that time, tobacco paid taxes and supported the schools and churches of this land." --Excerpted and slightly edited from The History of Burley Tobacco in East Tennessee & Western North Carolina. Note: If you would like to buy a copy of the book, make out a check to Chris Bickers for $25 and address it to Chris Bickers, 903-9 Shellbrook Ct., Raleigh NC 27609. Questions? Contact me by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 919-789 4631.
DATES TO REMEMBER
- July 20-21. N.C. Tobacco Tour. Begins at 3 p.m., July 20, Edwards Farm, 200 Salem Church Rd., Wendell, N.C., followed by a Welcome Dinner. The tour will begin on the morning of July 21 with a tour of research at the Upper Coastal Plain Research Station near Rocky Mount followed by a tour of research at theOxford Tobacco Research Station. Contact: Mina Mila at 919-513-1291 or email@example.com.
- July 29. Annual Tobacco Research Field Day. Southern Piedmont AREC, Blackstone, Va. Registration begins at 5 p.m., followed by dinner. Tour will begin at 6 p.m. Contact: Margaret Kenny at 434-292-5331 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- July 30. Kentucky Corn-Soybean-Tobacco Field Day, UK Research & Education Center, Princeton Ky. Contact: Andy Bailey at email@example.com or 270-365-7541.
- August 3-4. Burley Tobacco Industry Tour, Lexington, Ky. On August 3, beginning at 1 p.m., participants will tour research at the Spindletop Research Farm, 3250 Ironworks Pike. There will be a sponsored dinner. On August 4, participants will tour are farms and see research at the Woodford County Farm, ending with lunch at the Woodford County Farm. Contact: Bob Pearce at 859 221 2465 or firstname.lastname@example.org.