Monday, May 23, 2016


Sandy soil (as in this field shown in this file shot taken near Tarboro, N.C.) allowed Eastern Belt farmers to make some progress on planting. But much of the Tobacco Belt was slowed by rain and cold in May.

North Carolina--Like much of the Southeast, it has been too wet and cool in North Carolina for the crop to make much progress, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "Two weeks ago, a survey showed that 59 percent of the flue-cured crop had been set. But I doubt we are up to much more than 65 percent. A few growers in the east who have sandy soil were able to finish up, but for most of the state, the rain has put on the brakes on transplanting. We just haven't had the drying time we need." Warmer temperatures would help too, since growth in the field has been slowed.

South Carolina--Planting is substantially complete, and the crop looks good so far, says William Hardee, area S.C. Extension agronomy agent. One area of concern: About 300 acres that had been planted before the cold weather of the weekend of April 9 are showing some effects. There wasn't serious damage but Hardee notes that you see some skips between plants and some unevenness in growth. "If it will all grow to the same height, we are not looking at too much of a problem." Meanwhile, there is some incidence of tomato spotted wilt virus.

Virginia--Transplanting was moving at a glacial pace for flue-cured and fire-cured growers in Virginia. As of May 15, only about 28 percent of the flue-cured crop had been transplanted, compared to a five-year average by that date of 57 percent. For fire-cured, which is grown in roughly the same area of south central Virginia as flue-cured, only about five percent had been set out by that date, compared to the five-year average of 29 percent. But burley was much nearer the average, with 12 percent set out against a five-year average of 14 percent. Note: All projections are from NASS' Crop Progress and Condition for Virginia.

Kentucky--Very slow progress has been made because of the weather. "I would guess that maybe five percent of the burley crop is planted," says Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist Bob Pearce. "We have had basically one full day and part of another that were dry enough to get anything done." Now, plants are ready to go, but farmers are forced to hold them back. "We are putting a lot of effort into disease control in the greenhouse, especially target spot." A plant shortage is certainly possible. Pearce is afraid Kentucky farmers may wind up planting in a narrow window, then not be able to harvest it all when it is ready. "Some might have to stay out longer than needed," he says.

Tennessee--Due to rain, very little field work was accomplished in the major burley-producing area around Nashville in the week ending May 15. Some newly set fields in Cheatham County (west of Nashville) suffered serious hail damage, said Ronnie Barron, county Extension agent, in the Tennessee Crop Weather from NASS. Very heavy rains caused some flooding in parts of Trousdale County (northeast of Nashville), leaving some corn and soybean plantings under water. Flooding caused some issues in newly transplanted burley fields, said Jason Evitts, county Extension agent, also in Tennessee Crop Weather.

Kentucky/Tennessee--Only about 10 percent of the dark tobacco types have been set out in Kentucky and Tennessee, says Andy Bailey, Kentucky Extension dark tobacco specialist. "We would like to be at 15 percent or more. But we have had only three or four good days since May 4, thanks to a lot of rain." Plants are doing well in the floatbeds and there shouldn't be any shortage, he adds.

In other news...
The global supply demand balance for burley improved greatly over the past year resulting in modest changes in U.S. contract volume for 2016, according to the April 26 edition of Economic and Policy Update from the University of Kentucky. Smaller crops in South America, Africa and the United States, coupled with a surprising increase in U.S. cigarette production helped offset the impacts of a strengthening U.S. dollar. Globally, world burley production is down around 20 percent over the past two years.

Thursday, May 5, 2016


Flue-cured growing in south Georgia on May 4. It was set on March 24.

Georgia and Florida--Planting is complete, says Extension tobacco specialist J. Michael Moore. "Some growers are making fertilizer applications, while the earliest transplanted fields have been plowed for the last time." There was an abundances of plants and many of them are still available for purchase. Moore expects 13,500 acres of tobacco in Georgia, which is the same as USDA's Prospective Plantings projection for the state. He expects about 1.300 acres in Florida, which wasn't included in the USDA Plantings report.

North Carolina--Planting is 75 percent complete in the Eastern Belt, 56 percent complete in the Middle Belt and 21 percent complete in the Old Belt, according to a county agent survey compiled by Matthew Vann, Extension tobacco specialist. The statewide estimate is 59 percent.Thanks to rainfall in most of the state, Vann doesn't expect much transplanting got done this week. "But once we get some dry weather, the farmers will get right back out there." There are still plenty of transplants available and they are generally of good quality, he says.

Virginia--Planting of flue-cured was only about five percent completed through May 1, according to USDA's Crop and Progress Report. The five-year average is 11 percent. Weather the past week prevented catching up but farmers weren't complaining. "Rain this week was helpful," says Extension agent Cynthia Gregg in Brunswick County. "Producers are planting tobacco and needed the rain."

Kentucky--Burley growers are waiting for fields to dry out, says Bob Pearce, Extension tobacco specialist. "Maybe a few have set some tobacco out already, but most are in await and see attitude with the weather." Thanks to up and down weather during the plant-producing season, it was a challenge to get a good crop of plants, but Pearce says what he has seen so far has been fair to good. It looks like the supply will be adequate but some growers may have to hunt around if they don't grow enough of their own. 

Tennessee--Transplanting has just barely begun, says Eric Walker, Extension tobacco specialist. He knows of only a few producers in the state who have started setting tobacco. "We were all geared up to start setting, but then the rain we received over the weekend was enough to hold us back. Next week, it will be wide open."

In other tobacco news:

Blue mold has been found in several greenhouses in south Georgia since Easter, but it is not a significant problem in the field yet, says Moore. "Farmers aggressively treated
in their greenhouses and segregated the infected plants. We have found only one location where blue mold is active in the field." Hot weather in this area last week will hopefully have dried up any other blue mold in the field.

A little tomato spotted wilt has also been found in Georgia. Moore estimates one or two percent of plants have been infected. "That is not nearly as much as was expected after our relatively warm winter and spring," he says. There was no shortage either of weed hosts or of thrips, which vectors the disease.

GAP audits for cooperative growers: The U.S. Tobacco Cooperative (USTC), headquartered in Raleigh, N.C., will require GAP Connection audits for all of its growers this year. "While grower audits are time consuming, they are a key part of changing the perception of U.S. tobacco," says Stuart Thompson, chief executive officer of the cooperative, which serves flue-cured growers. "Leaf buyers not only want growers to meet high standards, they want data to prove it." Thompson thinks the market is heading toward 100 percent audit of growers on an annual basis...USTC has created a new position of director of leaf quality and appointed Declan Curran to fill it. Curran had been manager of processing and quality at Phillip Morris International previously.

One new leaf marketing center has been opened by USTC this season. Two others were closed. The co-op will operate six marketing centers, in Nashville, Ga.; Mullins, S.C.; Wilson, N.C., Sanford, N.C.; Smithfield, N.C., and LaCrosse, Va. The LaCrosse center is new. The co-op has closed marketing centers in Oxford, N.C., and Danville, Va.

More child labor allegations: Reynolds American (RAI) came under fire this week when the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) contended that some of RAI's farmers violated the company's 2014 commitment not to allow the employment of children under 16 on farms it buys tobacco from. Further details will follow in a future issue.

In Passing: Layten Davis of Spring Creek, N.C., near Marshall, died April 30. A native of Madison County, he was a professor of agronomy at the University of Kentucky, later the director of the Tobacco and Health Research Institute in Lexington, Ky., and still later principal research scientist at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. He was the co-editor in 1999 of Tobacco: Production, Chemistry and Technology, still an important reference book.