Monday, June 20, 2016


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Flue-cured plants in south Georgia show effects of tomato spotted wilt virus last week. (Photo courtesy of J. Michael Moore).

Tomato spotted wilt is widespread in Florida and Georgia. "This is probably the highest incidence in the last 10 years," says J. Michael Moore, Georgia-Florida Extension tobacco specialist. "We are seeing 20, 30, even 40 percent of fields with the disease," says Moore. It has appeared in South Carolina too.

Why the spotted wilt outbreak? "The likely reason is the extremely warm winter that we had," says Moore. "It allowed the survival of the weeds that host the disease and the thrips that vector it." Georgia-Florida farmers
generally use Actigard and Admire to reduce TSWV losses. But this season the chemicals seem to have been over-whelmed.

Blue mold has also been problematic. "We have had blue mold in these two states since Easter," says Moore. "It falls in a strip running from Gainesville, Fl., to Metter, Ga. It has only been at a low level on lower leaves and will likely be reduced with warmer and drier weather. But between blue mold and TSWV, the value of the downstalk leaves is likely to be reduced."

Since the demand for downstalk leaf is down anyway, this is the year to leave downstalk leaves in the field, Moore says. "It is likely we will have an inferior quality tobacco at the bottom, and we don't need to spend money on harvesting, curing and baling it." You could remove the bottom leaves with a defoliator, but Moore thinks that is an unnecessary expense too. "Set your harvester at a level that leaves all but the best lugs, and make a good primings grade for your first harvest," he says. "Just leave the bottom leaves in the field."

Flyings versus lugs: In contrast, the leaves from the bottom of the burley stalk--called flyings--are in short supply on the current market. The main reason: Under present practices, it is hard to produce a true flying. "There may be only one or two flyings on the stalk," says Don Fowlkes, agronomist for the Burley Stabilization Corporation in Springfield, Tn. "So farmers usually end up with a bottom grade that is a mixture of flyings and cutters. We are encouraging growers to separate true flyings from cutters if they can."

Crop report: In Florida, harvest of flue-cured has begun, and it should start in Georgia very soon, says Moore. In South Carolina, 13 percent of the flue-cured had been topped by June 19. In Virginia, 91 percent of the flue-cured, 88 percent of the burley and 85 percent of fire-cured had been transplanted by June 19, according to USDA. The burley crop in Tennessee was late getting in the ground, with perhaps 20 percent still to be planted as of June 17, says Fowlkes. In North Carolina, 75 percent of the burley was transplanted, and in Kentucky, 83 percent of all types have been transplanted, both estimates through June 19, again according to USDA.

  • June 23, Tobacco Field Day. Highland Rim AgResearch & Education Center, Springfield, Tn.  8 a.m. to 1:30 P.M. (CDT). Contact 615-382-3130. 
  • July 25-27. N.C. Tobacco Tour. Details to follow.
  • August 2. Annual Tobacco Research Field Day. Southern Piedmont AREC, Blackstone, Va. Registration begins at 5 p.m., followed by dinner. Tour will begin at 6 p.m. Contact: Margaret Kenny at 434-292-5331 or

1723 Goldsboro St. SW, Wilson, N.C., 
in the old Liberty Warehouse
Mann Mullen is the owner of Big M auction warehouse in Wilson, N.C.
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.


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

Full-service burley warehouse

Jerry Rankin, Owner

  Call for information.

Friday, June 10, 2016


The race to end a long setting season: Farmers pulled out all the stops to finish transplanting in late May and early June, as in this file photo taken in eastern N.C. of an eight-row Trium transplanter from C&M.

Beautiful in the field: The crop in eastern North Carolina is just "beautiful," says Rick Smith, president of Independent Leaf Tobacco, a dealer in Wilson, N.C. "We are getting warm nights now, and if we could get the rain to slow down, it would take off."

Still some to plant in N.C. It looks like 95 to 96 percent of the flue-cured crop in N.C. is planted, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "That is not a good number for this time of year. We like to be done by now." In the east, all the crop has been planted, most of it since the end of May, and generally it really took off as soon as it got into the ground." About 25 percent statewide is late, and Vann is concerned that there might be a problem if there is intense heat in July or earlier.

In the Old Belt, the crop is falling into two segments, says Vann: one that is being laid by now and one that is going in the ground. Soils that don't drain well tend to fall in the latter category. In the Winston-Salem area, about five percent of the flue-cured 
remains to be planted, says Tim Hambrick, Extension tobacco agent for Forsyth, Stokes and Surry counties. "This is awfully late," he says. "We would like to be done by now. Some of our tobacco is being planted after the insurance date." Very hard weather conditions in May were the reason for the late planting and development, he says.

In the Kentucky Bluegrass, some fields are yet to be planted and those that have are about two to three weeks behind, says Jerry Rankin, burley grower and owner of Farmers Tobacco Warehouse in Danville. "I would say 55 percent to 70 percent is planted. In a normal year it would be more like 90 percent. There is still plenty to go out." Rankin still has eight to 10 more acres of his own to plant. "You would rather be done in May than June 7 or 8." But the tobacco that has been planted has a near perfect stand, he says. "It looks super good."

Note to burley growers: 2016 will be no year to overproduce, says Daniel Green, chief executive officer of Burley Stabilization Corporation (BSC), headquartered in Springfield, Tn. The world burley market continues a very slow recovery from oversupply, especially neutral filler, he says, and producing more than the industry demands will put additional pressure on growers. "Don't overshoot your contracted pounds," he says.
Return of a tobacco specialist: BSC recently appointed Don Fowlkes to serve as agronomist stationed at the BSC facility in Greeneville, Tn., and provide support to Bill Maksymowicz who serves as agronomist out of the BSC office in Springfield. Fowlkes was the Extension tobacco specialist for the state of Tennessee from 1985 to 2001. He has been employed by Philip Morris USA and PMI for most of the intervening time.
What style of burley is in demand now? Fowlkes says, "In broad terms the, the burley our customers want is best described as being medium to heavy bodied with a tannish-red to red color line--not tobacco that is thin and bright (buff, light tan, K color lines), but also not tobacco that is excessively dark or black." Generally speaking, a tan with tannish red to red color line is preferred over bright or light. And medium to heavy body is preferred over thin, especially upstalk. "This is not to imply that the 'thins' or downstalk grades are not important or not in demand," he says. "They are."
One way to make lower-stalk flue-cured leaf more valuable: shake off the sand. "This is one of the most serious problems with lower-stalk tobacco," say agronomists associated with N.C. State University. "The content of sand sometimes runs as high as one sixth of the weight of tobacco. Sand removal will definitely increase the quality of your tobacco."
Correction: USTC will operate five leaf marketing centers this season--Nashville, Ga.; Mullins, S.C.; Wilson, N.C.; Smithfield, N.C., and the new one in LaCrosse, Va. It will operate a green leaf storage facility in Sanford, N.C.