Sunday, March 20, 2016


A farmer beds his tobacco land before transplanting near Cobbtown, 
Ga., on March 18. The season's first plantings reportedly took place 
four days earlier in Florida (Photo courtesy of J.Michael Moore).

The first tobacco of 2016 has been planted in Florida and Georgia, beginning on March 14, and land preparation is proceeding at a breakneck pace everywhere else. Higher temperatures than normal for this time of year helped farmers in the Deep South get a good start, says Extension specialist J. Michael Moore stationed in Tifton, Ga. "It was 89 degrees Wednesday. The dogwoods are blooming, the azaleas are out, and our growers want to get their plants in the field."

There will be plenty of Type 14 plants, with probably some excess to sell, Moore says. "We had to commit before contracts were out, and some companies cut back, so we may have seeded more than we will need." Still, for now, Moore is estimating Georgia acreage will be close to last year's 13,500 acres. Florida may fall a bit but he is hoping for 1,000 acres.

No reason to think tomato spotted wilt won't make an impact this season. "We have plenty of weeds, and there are plenty of thrips in those weeds," says Moore. "We have to be prepared for a heavy load of tomato spotted wilt right after transplanting."

Growers in Tennessee began seeding their greenhouses late in February, and now the process is well under way, says Eric Walker, Extension tobacco specialist stationed in Springfield, Tn. Things seem to be going well, but Walker reminds growers to replace EPS trays at least every three years. "These trays can increasingly harbor diseases, such as Pythium, with each additional year of use."

Seeding of dark tobacco in western Kentucky and middle Tennessee started around March 1. "There was not much seeding done at the beginning," says Andy Bailey, Extension dark tobacco specialist stationed in Princeton, Ky. "The bulk went in from about March 15." Plants were just beginning to appear in the earliest seeded greenhouses by the end of this week. "If all goes well, seeding will be finished by early April, with first transplantings around May 1 or as soon as the weather permits."

Much of the Kentucky burley crop remains to be seeded, says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist, but seedlings are already up in some greenhouses. Progress has been good but he is concerned about predicted high temperatures. "Make sure the heat is not excessive in the greenhouse," he advises.

Be sure to keep the temperature in your greenhouses below 90 degrees. The temperature can increase very rapidly on sunny days any time during the production period, says the South Carolina Extension Service.

A "triple option" of black shank control chemicals? The new products Presidio and Orondis Gold along with Ridomil Gold make your choices a little more complicated. "There may well be some farmers who elect to apply a black shank fungicide preplant or in the transplant water, again at first cultivation, and then again at layby," says Charles Johnson, Virginia Extension plant pathologist. "But most will choose to apply a product in the setter water and then another to use in a field spray during cultivation." Ridomil Gold can still be used at any of these three timings. But the Orondis Gold-Ridomil Gold tank mix and Presidio are to be applied only once during a growing season. And Presidio can only be used as an incorporated field spray in 2016.

All three fungicides should provide good to excellent black shank control, says Johnson. "The Orondis Gold-Ridomil Gold tank mix and Presidio have generally shown the best black shank control in field trials over the past several years." Ultra Flourish and MetaStar can be used in place of Ridomil Gold, but keep in mind that the use rates are higher because these products are less concentrated. 

Despite the bad weather in 2015, flue-cured grower Mel Ray of Whitesville, N.C., had some fields that yielded 3,000 pounds per acre or more, thanks in part to a new soil amendment product called Quick-Sol. He treated both in the greenhouse and in the field. During the drought, the plants weren't stressed. "Once we got rain, these plants came back, and I think the Quick-Sol helped them hold on and stay healthy," says Ray. For more information, see the Soil and Plant Technology website


Trium _ Foxdrive
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Friday, March 11, 2016


Young seedlings were growing well at the end of February on this farm near Raleigh, N.C.

Seeding wrapped up on March 2 on Tyson Family Farms in Nashville in the Eastern Belt of North Carolina. "In the first greenhouse we seeded, the plants are up," says Sharon Tyson. "We hope to have enough plants for 400 acres." It will be all flue-cured, with perhaps as much as 35 acres organic.
A new burley variety for a niche market: KT 215 features excellent resistance to fusarium wilt and race 1 black shank and was released this year. But only a limited supply of seed was produced and it is already sold out for this season. Adequate supplies should be available for 2017, and it will be a good choice if you are one of the small number of farmers dealing with both those diseases. If you don't have both, you are probably better off planting one of the existing varieties, says Robert Miller, the Kentucky-Tennessee breeder who developed KT 215. That's because unlike most varieties generally planted now, KT 215 has no resistance to potato virus Y, which could become a problem in a hurry.

Where would KT 215 fit best? Miller says you find fields with both fusarium wilt and black shank most often along the Ohio River and in an area of western North Carolina in river bottoms where tomatoes were once grown extensively, which built up fusarium. "It is seldom found in Tennessee," he says.

Grower numbers down in Kentucky: 2,805 farmers grew burley in Kentucky in 2014, according to a report from Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association. That was 448 less than the year before and 560 less than 2012. "These numbers reflect a trend that most likely continued in 2015 and will carry forward for 2016," the report said.

Tyson was one of 21 farmers and 21 agriculture professionals who participated in the recent 2016 N.C. State Tobacco Short Course, taking part in two days of classroom studies on everything from how best to produce plants in greenhouses to optimizing curing of leaf to participating in a flue - cured tobacco grading session. One of the high points was a day-long session on grading, taught by USDA-AMS specialist Bobby Wellons. "Since the industry faces continuous change, we need to make sure our younger farmers, their advisors, and industry representatives are able to focus on how to attain efficient production of quality tobacco," says Bill Collins, co-director of the course, which is conducted by the North Carolina Tobacco Foundation, in partnership with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University and the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina. Funding for the program is provided by the North Carolina Tobacco Research Commission. Participants in this course were:

Growers: Person County--Daniel Adcock, Greg Garrett and Hunter Thomas. Johnston County--Hunter Langdon and Austin Benson. Wilson County--Russell Davis and Daniel Sharp. Nash County--Ashley Fisher, Sharon Tyson, Hailey  Askew and Matt Batchelor. Bertie County--Nick Morris and Sid Copeland III. Beaufort County--Dodge Buck III, Jody Arnold and Ryan Hardison. Hertford County--Will Hawthorne and Denton Spruill. Franklin County--Nick Bell. Caswell County--Coty Redding. Rockingham County--Josh French.
AdvisorsExtension Service Agents--Zack Taylor (Lee County), Kelly McCaskill (Moore County) and Anna-Beth Williams (Washington County). NCDA&CS Agronomy--Jacob Searcy (Region 2); Daniel Overcash (Region 11). NCDA&CS Research--Chris Blackmon (Border Belt Research Station) and Daniel Williams (Central Crops Research Station).  USDA-Risk Management--Tonya Harris. Carolina Precision & Consulting--Tanner Smith and Taylor Branham. Crop Production Services--Matt Griffin. Southern Bank--Terri Stutts.  Tyton Bioenergy Systems--Jennifer Atkins. Waypoint Analytical--Pauric McGroary. RJR Tobacco--Chris Buchanan, David Grimes and Matt Sain. Hail & Cotton--Will Borthick, Brad Price, Thomas Lowery and Bill Norfleet.
A young farmer and a career educator were honored at the annual "Breakfast with the Commissioner" held by the Tobacco Farm Life Museum on February 5 in Raleigh at the Southern Farm Show. The Innovative Farmer of the Year Award went to Robert Elliott of Cypress Hall Farm of Louisburg, N.C. The Excellence in Agriculture award, sponsored by Wells Fargo, went to Richard H. Linton, Dean of the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences at N.C. State University.

A legendary tobacco agronomist received one of several awards given by the Tobacco Growers Association of N.C. on February 5 at the Southern Farm Show. Distinguished Service Award--Tobacco Agronomist W.K. "Bill" Collins. Extension Service Award--Charles Mitchell, Extension director, Franklin County, N.C. Outstanding Director--Jonathan Renn, Franklin County. N.C. Farm Family of the Year--Hinnant Farms. Lifetime Century Member--Donny McElveen.


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Friday, March 4, 2016


A quality strategy: Flue-cured grower Richard Todd of Wendell, N.C., wants to maximize 
his leaf quality in 2016.
Quality will definitely determine who gets contracts in the future and who doesn't, says Richard Todd of Wendell, N.C., who farms with his son Joe. "The companies will look at who produces the best tobacco." There are many practices that can help--in recent years, the Todds have gotten a quality boost from some new curing barns. "We bought a World Tobacco barn three years ago (above) and have since bought two more." The best thing about them is the quality of the cure, he says. "That is mainly because of the airflow and the amount of insulation."

Germination delay may occur in greenhouses in some regions of North Carolina, so it might be wise to add fertilizer a few days later than normal. "Standard practice is to
wait seven to 10 days after seeding before adding fertilizer to the floatbed to hedge against injury from soluble salts," says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension specialist. "Waiting until 10 to 12 days is probably not a bad idea, but I would not wait any longer than 14 days--uneven growth could occur, with older seedlings rapidly outpacing the younger ones."

Short volume but better quality: The 2015 burley crop was short, says Steve Pratt, GM of the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Assn. in Lexington, Ky. "We didn't get all the pounds we contracted for. But it was of better than expected quality. Expectations had been low on the early crop because we had a lot of rain. But the weather during curing was good enough that it allowed the leaf to recover." The cooperative will probably start contracting in March and will be looking to sign up about the same volume or a little less than it did a year ago. 

Contracting should also start soon for Burley Stabilization Corporation (BSC), the coop in Springfield, Tn.  Daniel Green, BSC chief operating officer, says that despite excessiverain growers produced about what had been anticipated. "There was little low quality tobacco in this crop," he says. "It was a bit on the thin side, but is very useable tobacco." There may be a small increase in the coop's contract volume, he says. 
Burley decline: 2,805 farmers in Kentucky grew burley in 2014, according to an update from BTGCA that was shared at its annual meeting. That was 448 less than the year before and 560 less than 2012. "These numbers reflect a trend that most likely continued in 2015 and will carry forward for 2016," the update said. 

New flue-cured leader: Clay Strickland of Clinton, N.C., was elected president of the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina at its annual meeting in Raleigh, N.C.,on February 5. There will be just one way for N.C. growers to get ahead of the current market, he says, and that will be to produce quality leaf. "The outlook now is not real good, and I have to feel a little pessimistic." 

New burley leader: Burley Grower Greg Harris of Richmond, Ky., was elected to a two-year term as president of the Council for Burley Tobacco at its annual meeting. "Insurance fraud, contract uncer-tainty and labor/ immigration are a few of the issues our board has made as priorities for the year ahead," he said. David Chappell, Sparta, Ky., was elected vice president.