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.

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