Wednesday, July 20, 2016


In my last issue, I reported the opinion of the leader of US Tobacco Cooperative that auctions are contributing to the problem of oversupply of leaf; the response of warehouseman Dennis White of Rural Hall, N.C.; and my own opinion that warehouses are a more desirable marketing method than anything that might rise up in their place. I asked for other opinions, and I definitely got them. Following are the first responses I received. If you want to weigh in with further thoughts, I will print them in a future issue.  Email direct to this address: Write Auctions in the heading. The original items appear at the end of this section. And after that there is a short update on several new outbreaks of blue mold that I have become aware. Look for my next issue around the first of August.--Chris Bickers

Strongly disagree [with editor Bickers].
Charlie S. Batten, N.C.

[I] just read your thoughts on the auctions, [and I] cannot follow your thinking! There about eight end users of flue-cured tobacco. The contractors are receiving tobacco that should be graded for a price, say $2.10, [which] they reject by grading to a lesser price. The farmer takes the bale to auction and receives an offer of $1.50. What is he to do? He sells to warehouse...The warehouse sells the bale, direct or indirect, to the same company after everyone involved gets their cut. Everyone wins except the grower! The situation is even worse with wildcat tobacco that is covered with crop insurance! Wake up!
Kendall Hill, N.C.

I agree with you [that] auctions remain a needed portion of our tobacco leaf sales system. There will always be some leaf falling below contract standards but [that is] usable in lesser brands. Many people don't realize our major buyers are pointing those contract purchases to manufacturing premium brands here and globally. The cheaper off-quality leaf can be nearly a substitute for the imported strips from Africa, India and some Asian countries. A far more important issue is the acres produced with the RMA subsidized crop insurance as the underlying revenue guarantee and subsequent flow of those dollars.  Despite some feeble attempts to reform the most offending portions of that system, the pounds from both burley and flue continue to increase going through the quality grading program.  Only when the insurance reform discussions are being lead by non-conflicted growers will we see improvements in the abuse of the crop insurance area.
Roger Quarles, Ky.
(Note: In an earlier edition, this letter was mistakenly attributed to Roger Quarles' son, Ryan Quarles, Commissioner of Agriculture of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.)

I may regret these words, but if a farmer [has] contract pounds, he or she should not be able to insure it. Insurance is what is supporting wildcat tobacco and that only hurts the whole tobacco industry.
Brad Barefoot, N.C.

Here is the editor's original opinion: The danger of oversupply comes not so much from tobacco sold beyond what is contracted, but from tobacco sold beyond what is contracted that no one knows about. The auctions offer at least a framework for transparency. I consider them--and have considered them from the time the new ones started springing up--to be a positive addition to our marketing system. I wish we had more of them (TFN July II 2016). 

--Pennsylvania: Blue mold was found growing in several tobacco fields in the Christiana area of eastern Lancaster County two weeks ago. It has since been found at low levels in other areas as well. At this point, the incidences don't appear to be cause for much concern. "With the recent hot dry weather, it should not spread very quickly," says Jeff Graybill, Pennsylvania agronomy Extension educator. "But fields should continue to be closely monitored, and in many cases a protective spray should beapplied." It was found on burley. "But I would imagine that in some cases, fields of the other types--especially PA type 41 wrapper tobacco--should be sprayed," he says.
--Virginia: "We know of three cases of blue mold in central Virginia, all within 20 miles," says Chuck Johnson, Virginia Extension plant pathologist. "Hopefully, we'll not see any more. But we're watching. Many fields are at or are approaching topping, at which point leaves become less susceptible as they thicken and ripen."
--Tennessee: Blue mold was found in Carter County, Tn., in the northeast part of the state bordering North Carolina, on July 2, according to Melody Rose, Tennessee Extension agent in nearby Greene County. "That was actually during a dry spell when you don't expect blue mold," she says. Since then, a few spots have appeared here and there, usually in shady areas or by rivers. None appear threatening now, Rose believes, but topping is still a way off in east Tennessee. 
  • July 21. Tennessee Tobacco Tour, AgResearch Education Ctr., Greeneville, Tn. Registration and a trade show start at 3 p.m. Tours start at 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. with a sponsored dinner at 7 p.m. Contact: 423-638-6532.
  • July 25-27. N.C. Tobacco Tour. Welcome reception begins at 6 p.m., Kings BBQ, Kinston, N.C., July 25. Tours begin July 26 at 8 a.m. (breakfast at 7:30 a.m.) at the Cunningham Research Station in Kinston and on July 27 at the Upper Coastal Plain Research Station in Rocky Mount at 8 a.m. (breakfast at 7:30 a.m.). Farm visits both days in the afternoon. The tour will end in Oxford around 5 p.m. To register, go to
  • July 28. Corn, Soybean and Tobacco Field Day, University of Kentucky Research & Education Center, Princeton. Registration begins at 7 a.m. and tours run from 8 a.m. until noon. Sponsored lunch. Contact: Andy Bailey at 270-365-7541 Extn. 240.
  • 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
  • August 11. Tobacco Twilight Tour, Murray State University, Murray, Ky. Registration beginning at 5:30 p.m., followed by field tour and supper. Contact: Andy Bailey at or  270-365-7541 Extn. 240
  • August 8-9. Burley Tobacco Research Tour in Central Ky. August 8: Begins at the Plant and Soil Sciences Field Lab., 3250 Ironworks Pike, Lexington Ky., at 1 p.m. Dinner at 5:30. August 9: 8 a.m.-2 p.m. tour of test plots on grower farms in surrounding counties. Contact: Bob Pearce at 859-257-5110.

Monday, July 4, 2016


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Blue mold lesions grow on flue-cured leaves in this file photo of a field in southeastern N.C.

The fungal disease was spotted on flue-cured in Caswell County, N.C., on June 17. Extension agent Joey Knight reports that the farmer treated quickly and thoroughly with Quadris and the blue mold was kept under control. "We'd been having 50-degree nights, heavy dews, and there was a 3.5 inch rain the night before," Knight says. "The conditions were right for blue mold. "But he had just topped, and after he sprayed. a hot spell set in, and there was very little spread. A few neighboring fields got a little of the disease, but all affected farmers sprayed. By the Fourth of July weekend, there appeared to be no more active blue mold in the area, which is south of Danville, Va. There have been no other reports of blue mold in N.C,, but it continues on flue-cured in Florida and Georgia.

Scout tobacco fields for blue mold in the coming days, particularly since many areas of Kentucky have had rainy weather recently, Emily Pfeufer, Ky. Extension plant

pathologist. Focus on areas where the pathogen is likely to encounter conditions that are conducive to the disease: Low spots, areas with partial shade, lower leaves and locations where water tends to drain slowly. "Look for yellow to orange spots on tops of lower leaves, then turn leaves over to check for blue-gray, some-what fuzzy sporula-tion," says Pfeufer. "Sporulation is more abundant under humid conditions, so scouting is most effective when done in early morning or late afternoon." The more recently set plantings will be more susceptible to infection. "However, all tobacco may be considered at-risk, especially crops located east of I-75."

Limited resistance: A few modern burley varieties have partial resistance to blue mold.  "But none have what we would consider high resistance," says Pfeurer. "[And] 
there is no resistance at all in dark tobacco."

Budworms versus ear-worms: Entomologists in N.C. have started seeing budworms in tobacco that was planted on time, says Hannah Burrack, N.C. Extension entomologist. "But there is less pressure on the tobacco that was planted later"...There were unusual early populations of corn earworm relative to budworms in some parts of the state, says Burrack. "It is interesting to us, but we manage both insects the same way."

New N.C. plant patholo-gist for tobacco: Lindsey Thiessen has been named the new N.C. Extension plant pathologist covering tobacco, replacing Mina Mila, who is now concentrating on research and teaching. In addition to tobacco, Thiessen will cover plant pathology on cotton, soybeans and other field crops. She will have some research responsibilities. A native of Texas, she recently obtained her doctorate at Oregon State University. She will work out of the main N.C. State campus in Raleigh.

Flue-cured plantings achieve earlier estimate, but burley didn't--USDA said in its June 30 acreage report that flue-cured growers planted 209,000 acres, down 11,000 acres from last season  and about what was predicted in USDA's Prospective Plantings Report in March. But burley growers planted only 75,900 acres, down 3,000 acres from 2015, rather than the small increase USDA had projected in March. Following are the state-by-state projections for the various types compared to last year.

FLUE-CURED: North Carolina, 160,000 acres, down 12,000 acres. Virginia, 21,000 acres, down 500 acres. South Carolina, 14,500 acres, up 1,500 acres. Georgia, 13,500 acres, no change.

BURLEY: Kentucky, 57,000 acres, down 1,000 acres. Tennessee, 12,000 acres, no change. Pennsylvania, 4,800 acres, up 100 acres. Virginia, 1,200 acres, down 100 acres. North Carolina, 900 acres, down 100 acres.
FIRE-CURED: All states--17,150 acres, down 700 acres. By state--Kentucky, 9,500 acres, down 400 acres. Tennessee, 7,400 acres, down 300 acres. Virginia, 250 acres, no change.        
DARK AIR-CURED: All states--5,900 acres, down 300 acres. By state--Kentucky, 4,700 acres, down 300 acres. Tennessee, 1,200 acres, no change.         
PENNSYLVANIA SEEDLEAF: Pennsylvania, 1,600 acres, no change.
SOUTHERN MARYLAND: Pennsylvania, 1,600 acres, no change.

What's the greatest threat to sustainability of tobacco growers? Oversupply, says Stuart Thompson, chief executive officer of U.S. Tobacco Cooperative. "It is critical for our growers that supply be balanced with demand," he says. "And it is critical for our customers to have a secure, stable and sustainable source of the finest flue-cured tobacco." What can be done? Thompson says auction markets and the misuse of crop insurance perpetuate untraceable, unaudited sourcing and overproduction.

  • July 25-27. N.C. Tobacco Tour. Tentatively starting 4 p.m. Jly 25 near Bentonville, N.C., continuing with tours starting in Kinston on July 26 and in Rocky Mount on July 27 and ending in Oxford. To register, go to the NCSU Tobacco Growers Information website at
  • 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
  • August 8-9. Burley Tobacco Industry Tour, Lexington, Ky. Details to be announced.


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.