A flue-cured greenhouse with plants nearly ready for setting, near Snow Hill, N.C.
USDA'S INITIAL ESTIMATE
HOW MUCH TOBACCO WILL WE GROW?
In a bit of a surprise, USDA said in its Prospective Plantings Report at the end of March that acreage of the two major tobacco types and most of the minor types would change only slightly from last year. Flue-cured, at 209,000 acres, would be four percent below 2015, according to this projection, while burley, at 79,150 acres, will be up slightly from last year if the projection is correct. Let's hope the projection is close, but industry estimates that have reached this editor's ears suggest a much bigger cut in flue-cured plantings and perhaps no reduction for burley. As to the other types, the report pegged fire-cured tobacco, at 17,350 acres, would be down two percent, and dark air-cured, at 5,950 acres, down four percent. The projection was based on a survey conducted in mid March.
Among the individual states: Flue-cured: NC--160,
The effects of the mid-April freeze were minimal but may have been worst in the Pee Dee area of South Carolina, where most of the state's tobacco is grown. "Only a small percentage of our total tobacco acreage had been transplanted (by April 9)," says William Hardee, S.C. Extension agent for Horry and Marion Counties. "But for some, this will turn out to be a costly incident." Some fields were damaged to the extent that the field will need to be reset completely. "Others just needed to be walked over and re-pegged to replace the dead transplants." The damage seemed worse on the light/sandy soils, Hardee says. That indicates that the cold, hard winds could have been a major contributor to the damage in addition to the low temperatures.
Tennessee burley dodged the bullet. There was some cold weather in east Tennessee at the end of that week of April 9, says Richard Hensley, research associate at the University of Tennessee Research & Education Center, in Greeneville. But all the tobacco was still in the greenhouse at that time. "Growers were able to keep the temperature around 70 degrees," he says. "The only effect that I noticed was that the plants growing close to the curtains now look a little small compared to the ones in the middle of the houses. I think that may be associated with the temperature."
Burley planting may start April 19 in Macon County, Tn., says Keith Allen, County Extension tobacco agent. "Some of our plants have been mowed two or three times and they are ready to go out," he says. "Rains are predicted toward the end of the week. But now it is in the mid 80s, so growers want to get started." This area, east of Nashville, also had cold weather the week ending April 9, he says. "But the low temperature was closer to 40 than freezing." All plants were in greenhouses at the time, and there was no damage.
GAP RECERTIFICATION MEETINGS