Saturday, June 24, 2017


A crop spread out in transplanting: A lot of the Bluegrass burley crop was planted late, but not this field. "I am 77 and have been growing tobacco nearly all my life, but I don't ever recall setting out burley in April till this year," says Ben Crain of Versailles, Ky. This field was transplanted April 28 and 29. Since this picture was taken on June 14, Crain says the tobacco has grown a foot and is now waist high.

Kentucky burley stands are good but not excellent, says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. At least 90 percent crop had been set as of Friday. Big rains yesterday and today will slow farmers a little. The average height of tobacco in the field was 10 inches, compared to 9 inches last year.

A problem has appeared, the same one that appeared a month ago in flue-cured. "There is more tomato spotted wilt than in recent memory," Pearce says. "It is widespread." There has been enough to reduce yield, but probably not by much, since tobacco can compensate to some degree for lost plants. "At this point, we may be looking at single digit (percentage)." Tennessee has had uncharacteristic TSWV infestations too but as in Kentucky, the yield loss is not too great so far.

Tennessee experienced another later-set crop, but very little remains to be transplanted now, says Eric Walker, Tennessee Extension tobacco specialist. "Most everyone is finishing up," he says. He estimated perhaps five percent of the crop remained to go in as of Friday plus a little replanting. But heavy rains this week will probably keep everyone out of the fields for a few more days. One way or another, although the planting season was just a little longer than in a normal year, a disproportionate number of acres were planted relatively late, so some late harvesting seems likely.

The east Tennessee burley crop is 10 to 14 days behind normal, says Don Fowlkes, manager of agronomy for Burley Stabilization Corporation in Greeneville. "We were farther behind than that but we mostly got caught up the week before last when we got some good weather," he says. He too thinks 95 percent or more of the expected crop in this region has been transplanted. "We are still early in the season but so far it is looking OK." He expects a few less acres planted in Tennessee when all is said and done, but with an average yield--the 2016 yield was below average--production might be the same or greater.

In southwestern Virginia, about three percent of the burley [the type grown here] remained to be set, according to USDA. But some areas were not as far along. "Unusually rainy weather has delayed tobacco setting. Only limited field work was accomplished this week [through June 18] with heavy showers scattered about the county almost every day," said Grayson County Extension agent Kevin Spurlin. "There were reports of up to eight inches this week in portions of the county, and flash flooding was common."

In western N.C., setting was running behind. USDA estimated that 74 percent had been transplanted by June 18. In Yancey County, numerous thunderstorms and rain events that week limited field activities, said Stanley Holloway, Extension agent. "Rainfall amounts were highly variable across the county, with most areas receiving between 1.5 inches to 2.5 inches for the week."

One imponderable in Kentucky and Tennessee: The contract prices for the dark types were good, and there may well have been some substitution of dark tobacco for burley. That confuses any production estimate for these types.

In other tobacco news:

Be extremely pro-active when making your first contact sucker control application if you are growing residue-free flue-cured, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "The conventional rule of thumb is that first application should begin at the 50 percent button stage. But consider starting before 50 percent button is reached, possibly at the 40 percent button stage. Beginning slightly earlier should allow for sufficient control of suckers growing in some of the larger, more advanced plants."

Target spot is showing up all over some counties in eastern N.C. "We are seeing lots of target spot on tobacco," says Norman Harrell, Wilson County Extension Director. "Quadris is labeled for control of target spot in flue-cured tobacco. The fungicide works as a preventative for leaf tissue that does not have target spot and should provide about two weeks of protection. The label lists the use rates of 6.0 to 12.0 ounces per acre.  In the current conditions, nine to 10 ounces per acre should be okay." If you are growing residue-free tobacco, contact your contracting company for approval to apply Quadris, he adds.

Greene County, N.C., missed many of the showers that fell last weekend, though they were all around. "Topsoil is starting to get dry, says Roy Thagard, Greene County Extension chairman. "Tobacco growers are finding budworms above threshold. They are also spraying to manage suckers and target spot." 

Sunday, June 4, 2017


Tomato spotted wilt virus ravages a field in south Georgia.

GEORGIA-FLORIDA--Tomato spotted wilt had appeared earlier in the season in the Type 14 states, but the pace picked up considerably in the week just ended, says J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco specialist. "It doubled its infestation rate to around 20 percent of plants showing symptoms, and we have older tobacco in which the infestation is as much as 50 percent.

The symptoms run from dead plants to ones where one or two leaves on one side are dying." The mild winter was the culprit. It allowed the survival of alternate host crops and the survival and high populations of thrips, which vector spotted wilt. "There is just so much you can do about spotted wilt, and most of it has to be done by the time the crop reaches this stage. Once the tobacco is in the field, most measures are futile." But good sucker control may help in keeping the disease from spreading. "Clean your crop up and apply flumetralin and maleic hydrazide when it is needed," Moore says. "Precise sucker control is one of the few things that can help, along with any-thing that will maximize yields and use up lost nutrients." Other practices that might help: 
  • Remove weeds so they won't interfere with harvest. 
  • Don't overfertilize after planting. 
  • Cure as economically as you can, using ventilator controls if possible.
NORTH CAROLINA--Tomato spotted wilt has broken out with a vengeance in the coastal plain counties of N.C. "In the last two weeks, we have seen a lot

of it," says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "The timing suggests it came here from Georgia." The mild to nonexistent winter is the cause. "We have suffered losses ranging from five percent to 40 percent. So far, it looks like it will be a record year for spotted wilt. It is worse in the tobacco that was transplanted early than the later crop." So far, there's been no spotted wilt west of Raleigh. "We don't really expect it there."

SOUTH CAROLINA--Much needed rain fell in the Pee Dee over last weekend as corn was starting to tassel, says Rusty Skipper, Extension agent in Horry County. But spotted wilt has broken out here too. "Tomato spotted wilt virus is more prevalent this year, and the damage is more extensive than in years past," he says."

VIRGINIA--Spotted wilt has even made an appearance in Virginia, says David Reed, Virginia Extension tobacco specialist. "There's not much, but it is more than we are used to," he says. "It is rarely a problem here." He visited a farm Friday that had two percent of its plants with symptoms. At this point, he doesn't expect to see many fields with more than four per cent....Flue-cured planting is subs-tantially complete, while dark and burley planting is at least 75 percent done, maybe more. "We got started early, then we were rained out for a while, so there is an early and a late crop: Some is just transplanted, and some of it has been laid by. All of it looks real good."

KENTUCKY--Things are going smoothly for Kentucky growers right now, says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Exten-sion tobacco specialist. "The crop is in excellent shape, and we have made good prog-ress on planting. Some areas are essentially done. Perhaps 60 percent to 70 percent of the crop has been plan-ted." He reports no major problems. There's been plenty of rain. "But whenever there has been a clear day, farmers have been ready to go."... Around Danville, Ky., grower warehouseman Jerry Rankin says he and his workers have been planting till 9:30 at night. "We are catching up now, but I would say we are a good two weeks behind," he says. "Much of this area (central Bluegrass) had tremendous rainfall. But the last four days, we are beginning to get back in the fields." He estimated 35 to 40 percent of fields in the area have been set by June 1.

TENNESSEE--Rain slowed things too in the Burley Belt's largest volume county, Macon in Tennessee. "We are not halfway done planting," says Keith Allen, county tobacco agent. "A lot is going to be planted. I have seen tobacco this season in fields where I have never seen it before--and I have been here 25 years." A lot will be put out, much more than last year. "We had a little more than 5,000 acres in 2016 in this county, [which is east of Nashville]. We might push 6,000 acres this season." The new acres are coming in part from land that has been in other row crops the past few years, Allen says.

More reports from the field--Notes from agents of the Extension Service and of the state Departments of Agriculture: 
  • "Wet fields are causing issues with tobacco farmers getting the last 10 percent to 20 percent of the crop planted," says Dwayne Tate, DOA agronomist in the Boone/Hickory/Morganton region.Transplant quality is suffering, he adds.
  • "Tobacco [growers] need to watch out for target spot with humid conditions following," says Gary Cross, Person County (N.C.) Extension agent.
  • Plants on deep sandy soils In Lee County, N.C., looks excellent. "That on heavier soils could use a break from the rain," says Zachary Taylor, County Extension agent.
  • It rained again this week in Atkinson County, Ga., says County Extension agent Tony Barnes. "We got enough rain to get soil moisture up to a suitable level to finish planting. Tobacco has really grown and looks much better."
  • Last week's spotty rains slowed some work," says Cynthia Gregg, Extension agent in Brunswick County, Va. "Tobacco is looking good, but needs some sun." 

In other tobacco news--

Flea beetles on burley: Young plants are showing some flea beetle damage in Macon County. "We put a control chemical in the setter water but in many cases it was too damp for the plant to take the chemical up," says Allen. Now, there is beginning to be some concern about the condition of plants. "There are still a lot of plants in the greenhouse," says Allen. "We have had a good greenhouse season but the longer the plants stay in the greenhouse there is more chance for disease."

More on auxin drift:  With the new dicamba-resistant soybeans, there is a danger in Kentucky of auxin herbicide drift on tobacco. "Not much of a problem is expected in eastern or central Kentucky, but western Kentucky [where significant acreages of grain crops are grown] may be a different story," Pearce says. "There could be potential concerns if growers don't take appropriate caution." Keep in contact with any neighbor who might be spraying an auxin, he says. "Communication is the key to preventing contamination by drift."

Management change at cooperative: After three years as chief executive of the of U.S. Tobacco Cooperative (USTC), Stuart Thompson resigned in May. He has been replaced on an interim basis by Chief Financial Officer Edward Kacsuta, the company said. Thompson joined USTC five years ago as CFO. "His departure comes at a time when there were differing opinions on business strategy," USTC said. USTC is owned by flue-cured growers and based in Raleigh, N.C.

  • June 12-14, Georgia Tobacco Tour. Monday, June 12, 7 p.m. Kick-Off Supper at Johnson's Pond House in Blackshear, Ga. Tuesday, June 13, 7:30 a.m. Leave from Quality Inn/Suites for farm visits. End for the day in Tifton, Ga. Wednesday, June 14, 7:30 a.m. Leave Hampton Inn to visit Coastal Plain Experiment Station, Tifton, and Florida tobacco producers. The tour will end near Live Oak, Fla. For more information contact J. Michael Moore at 229-392-6424 or
  • June 22, Tobacco Field Day. Highland Rim AgResearch & Education Center, Springfield, Tn. 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 P.M. (CDT). Contact 615-382-3130.
  • July 24-26. N.C. Tobacco Tour. Details to follow.
  • July 27. Annual Tobacco Research Field Day. Southern Piedmont AREC, Blackstone, Va. Details to follow.