Too much rain in September robbed Kentucky burley of much of its production capacity.
With two record-setting hurricanes wreaking havoc on eastern North Carolina flue-cured and exceptional rains in Kentucky in September, it was a discouraging ending indeed for much of the Tobacco Belt. Among the types:
NORTH CAROLINA--There is still some disagreement about the loss from Hurricanes Florence and Michael, but 100 to 110 million pounds seems to be a realistic estimate. Almost all of that came in the Eastern Belt and most was the result of Florence. But Michael had more of an effect in the Old Belt, where some flue-cured is still being harvested as fast as growers can get it out. "On late-planted tobacco, we saw some late-planted harvested just once, then all the rest was stripped," says Dennis White, owner of the Old Belt Tobacco Sales, which operates a warehouse near Winston-Salem. He is still getting good sales at this warehouse, and all leaf offered has found a home. But the character of the leaf offered now has definitely changed. "Now it is mostly on the H side. H5K is a grade we see a lot." The price has not gone up substan-tially since the hurri-canes, White says. "It falls in the $1.50 to $1.65 range." The practical top has been around $1.85. But even though demand wasn't extremely strong before the weather crisis, one wonders if all orders will be met.
VIRGINIA -- Excessive rain occurred in late August and continued in the form of storms in September and October "Assuming we were heading toward a 50- to 52-million-pound flue-crop crop in Virginia, I would guess that we lost 10 to 12 percent of that total," says David Reed, Extension tobacco agronomist. "In the eastern area, the loss is probably in the area of five percent, but might have approached 15 to 20 percent in some areas of Pittsylvania and Halifax Counties." A few growers made their contracted pounds, but most will fall short, Reed says.
SOUTH CAROLINA--Very little tobacco remained in the field in South Carolina when Florence blew through. Area Extension agronomy agent William Hardee estimated for Tobacco Farmer Newsletter earlier that 200 to 400 acres still had leaf to be harvested at that time, almost all of it tip leaf. Overripening ensued and he feared none of it was saved (see TFN, October I, 2018).
KENTUCKY--The burley crop in Kentucky took a significant hit from the rains in September, says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. "Statewide. I would estimate losses of 20 to 30 percent. In the bluegrass region, the losses may have been up to 40 percent in the bluegrass region." He thinks burley production for Kentucky lost 20 to 30 million pounds and might be down to a total of around 80 million pounds."
TENNESSEE--Burley in Tennessee was not seriously affected by the rains that struck Kentucky late in the season. "There was a small percentage affected. maybe five percent," says Eric Walker, Tennessee Extension tobacco specialist. "Overall, the crop looks pretty good. A small percentage of the tobacco was hit late with significant foliar leaf spot diseases, mainly frogeye leaf spot and some target spot. Rather than the weather, other factors have significantly reduced the size of the burley crop this year. I expect acreage to be down 35-40 percent from last year, and that may be a little conservative. Estimates of pounds are always hard, but I think we will have somewhere around 12 million pounds."
OHIO--Uncharacteristic rains in August, Sep-tember and the first half of October left burley tobacco in a "mess" in Southern Ohio. There is still crop in the field. Some farms in Adams County reported around 18 inches of late-season rain, says David Dugan, Ohio Extension Educator. "Several acres were under water as result of heavy rains over the Labor Day weekend. Some producers harvested less than half of their crop as a result. The Gallia County area is probably 60-70 percent harvested--the rest was lost. The quality of what was harvested was impacted, but I am not sure to what extent. I do not have a good estimate for pounds but would think Ohio is looking at a minimum of a 50 percent loss."
BLACK PATCH--The dark-producing area of western Kentucky and Tennessee perhaps had the best fortune of any of the states in September and October. It avoided the storms that damaged the crop in the bluegrass area. "We still have a good crop," says Andy Bailey, Extension dark tobacco specialist. "There is still maybe 10 percent of the dark fired crop to be harvested yet." He thinks there will be around 56 million pounds of dark fired and around 19 million pounds of dark air cured.