Thursday, September 10, 2015


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Silage cutting tobacco
Densely planted, no sucker control, then cut like silage: Energy tobacco will cost much less to produce than conventional. (Photo provided by Tyton)

A company in Virginia will soon begin signing contracts with farmers to produce tobacco for the manufacture of ethanol and biodiesel. Tyton BioEnergy Systems of Danville wants farmers to grow "energy" tobacco for delivery to its extractor in Danville (or to another extractor that is in the works in Raeford, N.C.) No information yet on prices or what scale of production of the company is looking for, but all that should be available fairly soon.

Cheaper to grow: The cost of producing energy tobacco should be much less than that of flue-cured, burley or any of the dark types. There will be no cost of plant production: Tyton will provide the transplants. Spacing of rows need not change but the spacing within the row will be much denser. You may need to tweak your fertility program to some degree but Tyton leaders don't expect a significant increase in total fertilizer per acre. You won't need to control suckers since suckers produce the end product just as well as leaf. But topping is desirable, although it apparently didn't get done in the photograph above. Control of insects and diseases will not be affected. You will harvest with a silage chopper, probably in mid summer, which would be the time of peak sugars, and perhaps once more at the end of the season. Curing is a thing of the past--the energy tobacco will go straight from the field to Tyton.

Eventually, beltwide plantings of energy tobacco are the goal. But for 2016, most contracting farmers will be in the vicinity of the two extractors. The company expects to expand into Kentucky-Tennessee and Georgia-Florida in the near future. Tyton's basic varieties--which were derived from flue-cured breeding material--will be planted in all current tobacco-producing areas.

Contracting to grow energy tobacco has not yet begun but will soon. No information yet on prices or what scale of production of the company is looking for, but all that should be available fairly soon too. It sure wouldn't hurt to get into company's database now. You can do that by sending an email to

EDITOR'S ASSESSMENT:  I am not a tobacco farmer, never have been. But if I was, I would run to my word processor and get my name in the hat to grow this new type. What could be the down side, as long as the price is high enough to return production costs and a reasonable profit? You don't have to grow plants, you don't have to control suckers, and you don't need workers to hand harvest. Best of all, no curing is required, or at least not by you. The company will take care of whatever processing is needed after harvest. This seems like an effort with infinite promise. I urge you now or tomorrow or the next day to send an email (you should be able to do it by clicking on the address above) and get on the list. There is no obligation; you're just letting Tyton know you might be interested.--Chris Bickers 

In other tobacco news: A new organic tobacco company begins accepting leaf deliveries this week. The two receiving stations for tobacco contracted by Swiss Organic Tobacco (SOT) will begin this week taking deliveries every other week. It will be on a rotating basis. The station in Wilson, N.C.--at R.C. Commodities, 1801 London Church Rd.--will begin receiving for SOT this Friday, September 12, while the one inKernersville, N.C.--W/S Tobacco Services, 1459 Brookford Rd.--will begin Friday, September 18. Each will take SOT deliveries on alternate Fridays till the market closes.

Believe it or not, domestic cigarette sales and production are both actually slightly higher for the first five months of 2015 compared to the same period last year, says Will Snell, Kentucky Extension tobacco economist. "How can that be the case? After all, the extreme cold weather in many parts of the U.S. this past winter likely limited up outside in midst of growing in-door smoking restrictions. Plus, cigarette price increases have been running four times the overall inflation rate." 

Possible explanations: Lower gas prices might be impacting cigarette sales as convenience stores (most of which sell gasoline) sell an estimated 65 to 70 percent of smokes. The growth in electronic cigarettes may be waning as tobacco consumers prefer to get their nicotine from cigarettes. Or it might be just some inventory adjustment by the manufacturers or a short term anomaly? "At this point, it is unclear how this surprising short-term trend may impact the market for the 2015 crop and contract volume for 2016," says Snell. (This was derived from an article on the Council for Burley Tobacco webpage. For more, go to and click on "News.") 

Plenty of tobacco, not much demand. American Tobacco Exchange its fourth sealed bid auction of the season Wednesday afternoon, and sales remain in the doldrums. "All we saw till today was fair to low quality lugs," says Randy Brandon, manager of the auction. "We got a few cutters today but no leaf at all." Volume has been about what he expected. The quality of offerings should improve soon, he thinks, because of late rains and farmers' commitment to letting their leaf get ripe.

Editor: Chris Bickers/903-9 Shellbrook Ct./Raleigh NC 27609/ 919 789 4631
1723 Goldsboro St. SW, Wilson, N.C., 
in the old Liberty Warehouse
Greg Goins is the auctioneer at Big M Warehouse.
We hold sealed bid auctions
We promise 
We will be GAP certified 
For more information, contact Mann Mullen at 919-496-9033 
or the warehouse switchboard at 252-206-1447.

Bigger is better
How burley bloomed in the Blue Ridge

For an easy-to-read account of how burley came to east Tennessee and western North Carolina in the late 1800s, along with oral history interviews with some of the best of the older generation burley farmers, and much more, order The History of Burley Tobacco in East Tennessee & Western North Carolina by Billy Yeargin and Christopher Bickers. Send a check for $25 to Chris Bickers, 903-9 Shellbrook Ct., Raleigh, N.C. 27609. Questions? Contact Bickers by phone at 919 789 4631 or via email at

Best of the Piedmont

209 Harding St., Danville, Ky.
PH: 859-236-4932

Full-service burley warehouse

Jerry Rankin, Owner

  Call for information.


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