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
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.