Wednesday, January 9, 2019

COULD YOU MAKE MONEY GROWING LOW-NICOTINE LEAF?

Low-nicotine tobacco plants grow in a seed propagation program in an unidentified field somewhere in Central America. Photo: 22nd Century Group.

It would seem a tall order, but the land-grant universities in the tobacco states are looking for possible strategies that might allow you to address the proposed Federal standards requiring cigarettes with much less nicotine. Some production practices, such as reduced nitrogen fertility, might help. But Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist, said at the recent N.C. Tobacco Day that variety development will be a necessity for there to be any hope of reaching the standards proposed by FDA. And there is not much to work with just yet.

But one existing variety has very low nicotine levels, says Vann. LAFC 53 is a flue-cured variety that has been used in research in the past but never by farmers. It currently does not meet the minimum standards required for variety certification, so it has never been commercially available. That could certainly change. But unfortunately, LAFC 53 consistently performs poorly in yield and quality. Manipulation in breeding could conceivably produce an acceptable cultivar in time, says Vann.

In the private sector, one company already markets cigarettes it says are low enough in nicotine to meet the new standards: These cigarettes are made using its own patented low-nicotine varieties. 22nd Century Group, headquartered in New York State with a factory in Mocksville, N.C., is currently seeking Modified Risk status from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its VLN cigarettes. 22nd Century has sold these cigarettes primarily as smoking cessation tools.

But where does 22nd Century get its low-nicotine leaf now? TFN has not been able to ascertain how 22nd Century's tobacco is being grown. But the company issued a statement three years ago saying a propagation program developed in an unspecified location in Central America (see photo) had been successful enough "to allow 22nd Century to greatly expand its tobacco leaf-growing programs in both the United States and in Central America." Watch for more details in future issues of TFN.

A billion pounds plus in Brazil? The flue-cured crop in Brazil is well into harvest. Two leaf dealers doing business there estimate production at 600 and 610 million kilograms respectively. That suggests a crop of around 1.33 billion pounds, which would be a little more than 2018 and about the same as 2017.

Brazilian burley is estimated at 143 million pounds, about the same as last season and about 20 million pounds less than the big year of 2017.

Western Kentucky didn't get as much rain as the Bluegrass of Kentucky and certainly not as much as eastern North Carolina. But it got enough to negatively affect yields, says Rod Kuegel, who grows burley and dark tobacco near Owensboro, Ky. The configuration of the land there makes intense rains a real problem. "We have flat fields in this area, and it is hard to get six inches of rain off of a flat field, "Kuegel says.

First ever bush hogging: As a result, he experienced an event that he is not happy to remember. "I had to bush hog eight acres of burley because of the flooding. It was the first time that I have mowed down tobacco in my life."

Reduced tillage may help: Farmers are beginning to grow quite a bit of no-till tobacco here, and the problems with draining flooded fields this year may hasten that trend...Dark tobacco is performing better now in western Kentucky than burley, he adds.

Tobacco may be losing its place in Kentucky agriculture, says Kuegel. "There is a lot of disappointment among farmers that we are still producing tobacco even though the price hasn't kept pace," he says. "I personally know many farmers who aren't going to grow burley in 2019. But dark growers seem determined to grow the type for at least another season."

In southern Ohio,  it rained so much  in 2018 that the area was left looking like a swamp, says David Dugan, Extension Educator in Adams County, Ohio.  One farmer located just north of the Ohio River near Adams and Brown County reported a total for the year of 74.67 inches just before midnight on December 31. Much of Ohio's burley crop was damaged. "In some cases, farmers said that they went ahead and barned tobacco that they should have just walked away from." Dugan said. He stands by his earlier estimate of around 50 percent loss in production for the state.

GAP GROWER TRAINING EVENTS
Check with your local Extension Service office for further details. All meetings listed here are free and presented in English. Note to readers: Corrections welcome.
January 8, 9 a.m. Winston Salem, N.C.
January 9, 9 a.m. Rocky Mount, N.C.
January 10, 9 a.m. Carthage, N.C.
January 11, 9 a.m. Smithfield, N.C.
January 15, 9 a.m. Yanceyville, N.C.
January 15, 10 a.m. Nashville, Ga 
January 15, 9 a.m. Blackstone, Va.
January 15, 5 p.m. Mayfield, Ky.
January 15, 5 p.m. Albany, Ky.
January 16, 9 a.m. Williamston, N.C.
January 17, 8:30 a.m. Oxford, N.C.
January 17, 4 p.m. South Chatham, Va..
January 18, 9 a.m. Lumberton, N.C.
January 22, 9 a.m. Lillington, N.C.
January 22, 5:30 p.m. Dixon, Ky.
January 23, 9 a.m. Yadkinville, N.C.
January 23, 9 a.m. Dover, Tn.
January 23, 4 p.m. South Hill, Va.
January 24, 9 a.m. Clinton, N.C.
January 24, 10 a.m. Sutherlin, Va.
January 25, 8 a.m. Kinston, N.C.
January 28, 9 a.m. Calhoun, Ky.
January 29, 9 a.m. Goldsboro, N.C.
January 31, 6 p.m. Lancaster, Ky.
February 1, 1:30 p.m. Raleigh, N.C.
February 5, 10:30 a.m. Springfield, Tn.
February 7, 6 p.m. Cynthiana, Ky.
February 8, 9 a.m. New Castle, Ky.
February 8, 1 p.m. Shelbyville, Ky
February 11, 1 p.m. Scottsburg, In.
February 11, 6 p.m. Vevay, In.
February 12, 6 p.m. Cadiz, Ky.
February 19, 4:30 p.m. Franklin, Ky.
February 21, 10 a.m. Fountain City, In.
February 25, 5 p.m. Clarksville, Tn.
February 28, 1 p.m. West Union, Ohio.
February 28, 6 p.m. Maysville, Ky.
March 1, 1 p.m. Paoli, In.
March 4, 6 p.m. Gallipolis, Ohio.
March 5, 1 p.m. West Union, Ohio.
March 5, 6:30 p.m. Georgetown, Ohio.
March 6, 9 a.m. Georgetown, Ohio.
March 11, 10 a.m. Tifton, Ga.
March 12,10 a.m. Marion, S.C.
March 19, 6 p.m. Glasgow, Ky.

DATES TO REMEMBER
  • January 30, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Southern Farm Show. N.C. State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, N.C.
  • January 31, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Southern Farm Show. N.C. State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, N.C. 
  • February 1, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Southern Farm Show. N.C. State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, N.C.
  • February 1, 10 a.m.--1 p.m. Tobacco Growers Association of N.C. Annual Meeting, Holshouser Building, N.C. State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, N.C. (in conjunction with Southern Farm Show).
  • February 5, 8 a.m.-1:30 p.m. CST. TN-KY Tobacco Expo. Robertson County Fair, 4635 Highway 41 N, Springfield, Tn.



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