Burnt tails, green butts--You saw a lot of this late in the season in North Carolina, thanks mainly to a period of intense dry heat.
The tobacco season of 2016 came to nearly its end with a really big storm when Hurricane Matthew blew through on October 8. The leaf that was still out there was subjected to torrential rains and whipping winds and worse, flooding later. But not much was left in the most affected state, North Carolina. And not any was still out in South Carolina, Georgia or Florida. The only state that still has significant tobacco in the field, Virginia, suffered much less damage from the storm.
Matthew damage minimal: In North Carolina, the effects of Hurricane Matthew on tobacco in the coastal plain were minimal, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "We had advanced warning, and farmers made a mad dash to get their tobacco out before it arrived. I don't think we will wind up seeing much loss from the hurricane." A few farmers reported losses in the barn because of power outages and the wet conditions ..."Only about one percent of the crop was still in the field," says Vann. Fortunately, there has been no early frost, he says, and the weather since the hurricane has been very mild. So the rest of the crop should be harvested very soon ...In the Piedmont, the hurricane caused even less damage. "We are seeing that the quality of the late crop there has been better than we might have expected," he says. Flue-cured growers will have an acceptable average yield, says Vann, but he thinks total production in the state may not reach the 346 million pounds that USDA projected last week. "It could be as low as 325 million pounds," he says.
No significant flooding: In Virginia, the rain was steady and prolonged in the 48 hours associated with Matthew. "We got five to seven inches in Pittsylvania County," says Stephen Barts, Extension agriculture agent for the county. "But there wasno significant flooding. We didn't have the standing water they had in North Carolina." The main effect was that Virginians lost three or four days in the field at a time when they could ill afford it. Now, he calculates that about a quarter of the farmers in his area still have tobacco in the field, and some still have a way to go before finishing it. "We may see some harvested on , if Jack Frost doesn't get it first," he says. "But most should be finished this week and most of the rest the next week, again depending on frost."
Burley states warm and dry: In Kentucky and Tennessee, the problem has been unseasonably warm weather and extended drought. "For all practical purposes we have finished harvest," says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. "Labor has been the main issue. It's been a struggle for some to get this crop hung. But there is very little burley out there now that is still worth harvesting." The earliest planted crop is curing real well, he says. But there are some concerns about the later crop. It was deteriorating in the field. "Because of the warm October, we may not have too much green. But the late-harvested burley may be brighter than we like." Yields will be below average, and Pearce thinks USDA has overestimated U.S. burley production. "I don't think we will reach 143 million pounds. I think 125 million pounds is more realistic" ... It has been very dry in Tennessee too. "We are the driest I have ever seen in Knox County in October in the 25 years I have lived here," says Neal Denton, Knox County Extension agent ...In southwest Virginia, rain from the hurricane provided some moisture. But it was very sporadic, says Scott Jerrell, Extension agent in Scott County.
USDA OCTOBER CROP REPORT