Bales of burley await marketing in the Bluegrass of Kentucky. Photo courtesy of the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association.
As best I can tell, all U.S. tobacco plus all Canada’s crop (see below) has been harvested since early this month. The last may have been some very late burley in Western North Carolina. But any still in the field on November 4 would have been killed by a frost event that day. Otherwise, almost all of this year’s tobacco seems to have escaped freeze damage. And it seems to have produced better than average quality almost all around.
All types did well in Tennessee: In Middle Tennessee, yields f0r dark air-cured, fire-cured and burley are expected to be a little better than average and quality seems good, says Mitchell Richmond, Tennessee Extension tobacco specialist. “There have been some good seasons lately for order and case.” For East Tennessee, an average to slightly better than average yield is expected. The curing season was better than average and good quality is expected in this region as well, Richmond says.
The quality of the dark types in Kentucky and Tennessee keeps getting better. “This is the best dark tobacco crop since 2014,” says Andy Bailey, Kentucky-Tennessee Extension dark specialist. “I am seeing a remarkably consistent crop on the floor,” he says. The yield is good, too. “One farmer reported a yield of 3,600 pounds per acres,” he says. “We had some hard frosts around the end of October, but no damage was reported--all of our tobacco was harvested by that time.” Much of the two dark types is curing in the barn, but some has been stripped and taken to market.
Flue-cured in Ontario was high quality too. “The quality is excellent,” says Maythern AL-Amery, Team Leader of the Canadian Tobacco Research Foundation in Tillsonburg. “[But] the yield was lowered by the heavy rains we experienced.” Harvest ended several weeks ago and there was no major problem with frost. Acreage had been estimated by some as 13,000, but AL-Amery says that may be subject to revision NOTE: Almost all tobacco grown in Canada is grown in the province of Ontario, and almost all Ontario tobacco is flue-cured.
How do you har-vestConnecticut Broad-leaf?Sorting wrapper/ binder and filler grades in a crop of Connecticut Broadleaf takes about two to 2.5 times longer than stripping dark or burley. Leaf dealers have allowed their Connecticut Broad leaf growers to reduce the time spent sorting wrapper and non-wrapper leaves by using a ‘straight strip’ method: Growers strip off and segregate the trash leaves at the bottom of the stalk, then the obvious filler leaves in the lower stalk. All of the leaves in the top half of the stalk that have potential to be wrapper leaves are stripped together and oriented in cardboard boxes. At delivery, the dealer collects samples to determine the percent wrapper grades in the crop and set the price per pound accordingly. Higher prices are offered for crops with higher percent wrapper leaves.
REPORT FROM OVERSEAS
Brazil: The 2020/2021 tobacco crop has come to a close and the 2021/2022 crop is now being transplanted, says ITGA’s Tobacco Courier. A survey of members of the growers association suggests a reduction of approximately five percent in area planted in tobacco.
Zimbabwe: Sales of the 2021 crop were completed with clean up sales at the end of September with a higher than estimated crop to be sold, according to Tobacco Courier. Initial estimates were under 200 million kilograms, but by the end of the season it appeared that close to 212 million kilograms had been sold. Prices late in the market held around US $2.80 vs. 2.50 per kilogram at the same point in the previous market. Prices were firmer because of the better quality on offer.
Malawi: The seasonal average price of all tobacco types on the recently ended market was $1.59 per kilogram, compared to $1.53 per kilogram recorded during the same period last year.
DATES TO REMEMBER
The annual TN/KY Tobacco Expo will take place on February 1 at the Robertson County Fairgrounds in Springfield, Tn., with speakers from the Universities of Tennessee and Kentucky and from GAP Connections.
The N.C. Extension tobacco team will hold a series of webinars for flue-cured growers in December. To learn how to participate, see https:// tobacco. ces.ncsu.edu/2021/11/december-webinar-series/. There will be no NC Tobacco Day this year.
The Southern Farm Show will be held in Raleigh, N.C., on February 2-4.
Bickers Editing Service | 903-9 Shellbrook Ct., Raleigh, NC 27609
Burley is enjoying a good curing season so far in Kentucky and Tennessee, like this burley near Lexington, Ky. But in North Carolina, some of the burley remains to be cut very late.
Photo courtesy of Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association.
Dodging the bullet: There was a heavy frostin central Kentucky last night, and freezing weather is expected in the area over the next week, says Jerry Rankin, owner of Farmers Tobacco Warehouse in Danville, Ky. But he doesn't think there is any burley left in the field to be damaged. "The last crop I saw growing around here was cut two weeks ago," he says.
Almost all of the 2021 burley and flue-cured was spared frost damage, although a few growths like the burley of the N.C. mountains and the flue-cured of the N.C. Piedmont still had tobacco unharvested at the beginning of this week.
The first burley auction of the year will take place at Farmers Warehouse the last week of November, says Rankin. But the location will be different: Farmers Tobacco has moved out of its longtime home near Centre College in Danville, Ky. "This year we are selling out of a warehouse on Hwy. 55 between Springfield and Lebanon." For further information, call Rankin at PH 859 319 1400 or call the main warehouse number at 859 236 4932.
Burley projection too high? Rankin is very skeptical about USDA's recent projection of 74 million pounds of burley in Kentucky. "It's been a wet year across the Burley Belt, and wet tobacco doesn't yield that good." Perhaps more damaging, many growers found it difficult to field a full harvest crew because of the labor shortage and didn't get the crop harvested in a timely manner, reducing yield. He thinks 50 million pounds is a more realistic estimate. "I hope I am wrong," he says.
Flue-cured auctions have a few more weeks to go. “We will have two or three more sales,” says Dennis White, owner of the Old Belt Tobacco Sales auction in Rural Hall near Winston-Salem. “Just a little tobacco is still left in the field, and I understand that most of that will be harvested today (Wednesday).” The volume had been good on the last four sales, and White says there is plenty of tobacco remaining to be sold. Most top tobacco attracted bids of around $1.80, White says. “The weather in the Piedmont went well for farmers, and all our farmers made their contract and right much more.”
A vote will take place0n November 18 on whether to continue the North Carolina research and education assessment . Ballots will be available at county Extension offices that day. The check-off program allocates about $200,000 a year to research and extension projects at N.C. State University. A two-thirds majority of votes is needed to pass.
Report from overseas:Malawi sold a total of 123.7 million kilograms of tobacco (all types) in the market season recently ended, compared to 114 million kilograms last season. That's an increase of 8.5 percent.
A dynasty in tobacco tying? The Maple Hill Loopers won the N.C. Tobacco Looping Contest held October 15 at the State Fair. It was the team’s seventh victory in the annual contest. The team is made up of husband and wife Sandy and Ken Jones of Maple Hill and Michael Sunday of Hendersonville. Sandy looped the stick of tobacco in 58.8 seconds and earned 68 out of 70 points for quality. The team took home a $250 price. The second and third place finishers were the Barbour Vineyard Team of Benson and the Tiemasters of Kernersville.
Heat and humidity did a number on the flue-cured tobacco grown at the Tobacco Research Station in Oxford, N.C., this year, says Carl Watson, the station’s ag research manager. Watson (foreground) brought leaf to Raleigh for the the N.C. State Fair Tobacco Looping Contest on October 15 . It looked a little ragged. “The ends of the tip leaves were hard to get ripe and were difficult to sell,” says Watson. As one observer noted, the flue-cured had in effect gotten “cooked in the field.” But the yield wasn’t affected, at least not at the station, and a yield of as much as 3,000 pounds per acre may be obtained. The station is located about 40 miles north of Raleigh.Photo by Christopher Bickers.
NORTH CAROLINA—There was a little flue-cured left at the end of last week, almost all of it in the western Piedmont of western N.C. While it was not a large amount, for some growers it could be the difference between profit and loss for this season. The growers will have a much better chance of success if frost will hold off for about seven more days, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. Maybe it will: There’s been no frost at all in North Carolina so far. “To date, we seem to have dodged that bullet,” he says. Vann had earlier estimated that the statewide average yield would fall in the range of 2,000 to 2,100 pounds per acre. “I see no reason to change it,” he says. USDA’s projection of 120,000 harvested acres still seems credible, so flue-cured production for the state might total 240,000 pounds, about what USDA projected in September and much more than was produced in 2020. Late in the season, there has been tremendous yield loss in the east, and some yield has been lost in the Piedmont because of drought. But the overall all yield will still be better than last year.
VIRGINIA—Flue-cured here still lagged somewhat behind schedule, and it was thought that it might take into early November to get this type harvested. The problem was too much rain combined with windstorms that blew over plants. Much of the crop had to be stood back up once, and some twice…To make matters worse, this has been an expensive crop to produce: Among many other things, farmers had to find additional labor, and fuel cost a lot…The crop was better in the eastern part of the tobacco area—Mecklenburg, Lunenburg and Dinwiddie counties—than in the west—Pittsylvania and Halifax counties, says one source. “We could still have a good crop but we need the frost to hold off,” he says…One odd note: There was a drastic difference in the distribution of rainfall during the season. “Some farms got 24 to 30 inches, while others got less than four,” the source says.
SOUTH CAROLINA, GEORGIA AND FLORIDA have completed harvest.
KENTUCKY--There might be a little burley left in Kentucky that has yet to be harvested but the vast majority of the state’s crop has been cut and barned, says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. “There are always a few stragglers.” Pearce expects the yields will be average and the color good. “I anticipate a quality burley crop.” But he hasn’t seen any stripped tobacco from this crop. The curing season has gone pretty well. “There were a couple of periods of wet weather that led to a touch of mold on some early cut tobacco, particularly on Connecticut broadleaf.” Other than that, the curing season has been mostly favorable. No killing frost yet: “A few areas experienced a very light frost on the 17th,” says Pearce. “I saw some on a few roof tops but did not see any on the ground. There was no impact on plants still growing at that time.”
TENNESSEE--In the east, heavy rain slowed harvest last week. As of Oct. 17 , the USDA estimated that a small portion of the tobacco crops still needs to be harvest-ed, perhaps four percent. It may in fact be completely harvested by now.
NORTH CAROLINA--Burley growers managed to make up some time by harvesting furiously, and by October 17, 85 percent of the crop was cut compared to 72 percent two weeks before. But their crop was still vulnerable to frost, which most years comes relatively early to farms here, many of which are in mountain locations. No killing frosts had been reported yet.
Dark fire-cured in the Black Patch will probably yield at least 3,300 pounds power acre and probably more, while dark air-cured will probably yield closer to 3,000 pounds. “We have a good dark crop out there,” says Andy Bailey, Kentucky-Tennessee Extension dark specialist. “It might not be the best we have ever had but it is certainly the best in the past six years.” Perhaps one percent of the dark tobacco in the Black Patch is still in the field, he says. “Harvest will be finished soon.”
Connecticut and Pennsylvania cigar wrapper types in Kentucky and Tennessee were harvested six weeks ago. “It is all cured now and the Connecticut broadleaf type has been sold,” says Bailey. “Many growers have crops that averaged $4.50 to $5.00 per pound. I have heard of one crop that averaged $5.21 per pound” Pennsylvania 41 marketing doesn’t start till later…Connecticut yields were around 2,000 pounds per acre, he says, while 2,200 to 2,300 pound yields are expected for the Pennsylvania type.
Buyers pore over flue-cured leaf at Old Belt Tobacco Sales in Rural Hall, N.C. File photo by Christopher Bickers.
A LOOK AT WHO'S FINISHED HARVEST
... AND WHO STILL HAS A WAY TO GO
NORTH CAROLINA--A late first frost date would really help Piedmont growers. Frost can reasonably be expected in 15 or 20 days, and that could be a real problem. “This crop is definitely late—some farmers have just made their first pulling,” says Dennis White of the Old Belt Tobacco Sales auction near Winston-Salem. “It is coming off fast, and farmers are having a hard time getting enough barn space to cure it.” If the top crop is damaged by frost or freezing, it will be a shame. “The leaf that is still out there has plenty of body and is of good color, and it will be overripe,” he says... The Old Belt warehouse held its fifth sale yesterday (October 5). White says they are going well. “We are selling over a half million pounds per sale, and our price has been close to the contract price. The price and quality of lugs offered here was good while that of cutters and leaf were very good, says White.
VIRGINIA—As in the N.C Piedmont, the Virginia flue-cured crop is way behind schedule and may take till early November to harvest completely. Too much rain was the main cause, but windstorms that blew over plants were also a problem. USDA estimated that 89 percent of the flue-cured in the state had been harvested by October 3. The quality seemed good at that point. “We could have a good crop if the frost will just hold off,” says one observer.
SOUTH CAROLINA--It’s all over for the 2021 crop except for selling it. And this crop turned out well: Even though it received more or less the same weather as eastern North Carolina, the crop fared much better. The state average yield was higher than in either of the past two years. William Hardee, S.C. area Extension agronomy agent, thinks the number may fall in the area of around 2,500 pounds per acre. Which would compare very favorably to the yields of the two previous seasons, neither of whose yield reached 2,000 pounds per acre…There were drought conditions in April and May which slowed crop development, followed by a wet June, says Hardee. Tropical Storm Elsa came at the beginning of July and had just enough wind to initiate a ripening response in the plant and put growers a little behind in harvesting. “But everyone is finished now. We completed harvest in the second or third week of September. By the beginning of October, the crop had been taken out and now the farmers just have to finish marketing it"…A change in S.C. tobacco Extension: TFN has learned that Extension tobacco specialist Matthew Inman has left to take a position in industry. No word yet on whether the position will be re-filled.
(GEORGIA and FLORIDA are done.)
KENTUCKY-- Burley growers made strong headway in the week ended October 3 as the weather was conducive, says USDA’s Crop Progress and Condition Report. But that progress was stymied over the weekend because of widespread precipitation. Housed tobacco is in mostly good condition. House burn was reported as one percent moderate, eight percent light and 91 percent with none.
TENNESSEE--Burley harvest is nearly finished, says Mitchell Richmond, Tennessee Extension tobacco specialist. Rain has caused some delays in cutting, but Richmond thinks the tobacco test plots at the Highland Rim Research Center in Springfield, Tn., will be completely harvested by Wednesday. “Maybe by a week from today harvest will be complete on the crop as a whole.” This won’t go down as a bumper crop, but the yield is good. Richmond doesn’t have an estimate of burley production in the state yet but still thinks the USDA figure of 4.5 million pounds is credible. The rain cut back a little the past week ending October 3 but this has been a very rainy season. Early rains had a negative impact on growth. “But since June 15 the rain has been more or less average,” he says.
NORTH CAROLINA--As of October 3, only 72 percent of the burley had been harvested. Farmers were living on borrowed time: The predicted first frost date in Asheville was September 22. It hasn't come yet but farmers are cutting and barning as fast as they can.
Recently cut burley plants wilting in the field in Mitchell County, N.C. Through September 19, 71 percent of Kentucky burley, 75 percent of Tennessee burley and 50 percent of N.C. burley had been harvested, according to USDA. Photo courtesy of N.C. State University.
In eastern North Carolina, the prospects for flue-cured look dismal. There had been hope among the more optimistic observers of U.S. leaf (this writer included) that the yield in the Eastern Belt might somehow rebound from the weather problems of last summer. It didn’t, and as the last of the leaf makes its way to the market, a shortfall has become a certainty.
--The downfall of tobacco in the east began when precipitation in June hit record levels of 15 to 24 inches, followed by intense heat for two weeks in July when the heat index reached 105 degrees, followed by plenty of rain since, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. “Some fields were drowned to the extent that farmers abandoned them. That will have quite an effect on overall yield”.
--Prices at flue-cured auctions have been steady so far, with good prices even for lower quality grades. “Pickings sold really well,” says Kenneth Kelly, owner of Horizon Ltd. warehouse of Wilson, N.C. “Now, we are beginning to see a trend in our leaf offerings from lower stalk to upper stalk leaf, and it seems there will be as good a demand for the upstalk. But I don’t have a good feel as to where the price is going to settle.”
--You would think the price will be pretty good considering the short supply. “North and northwest of Wilson, we have a big crop, in good condition, because of opportune rains,” says one source in the Wilson market. “But east and southeast of Wilson the pounding rains took the weight right out of the tobacco. It never made a good weight.” This source knows of some good farmers in the east who were not able to produce more than 50 percent of a crop this year. “So there is very unlikely to be enough Eastern Belt leaf to go around.”
--There’s been another crop problem in the east, says the source. “We are getting leaf now from a two-week hot spell we had in August. It dried the leaf so that it is not as clean and in some cases has rim burn.”
--For the state as a whole, USDA estimates production of flue-cured of 240 million pounds, 30 percent more than a year ago. That seems extremely unlikely, but Vann thinks upwards of 200 million pounds might still be possible...Harvest of eastern N.C. flue-cured should be complete very soon, says Vann.
In the Piedmont of North Carolina, around Greensboro, much of the flue-cured crop has been harvested, and it all might be in the barn in a week or 10 days, says Vann. The tobacco in the rest of the Old Belt has a longer way to go but has a good chance of being finished before the first frost date about three weeks from now. This area was much less affected by the bad weather of 2021 and a normal yield is expected.
In Connecticut and Massachusetts, produc-duction of Connecticut broadleaf will be down this season, says Jim LaMondia, Connecticut Agriculture Experiment Station plant pathologist. "But it won’t be for lack of effort on the part of the growers.” Plantings are probably the same or a little higher than in recent years, between 3,000 and 4,000 acres in the two states. But the yield and production will be down. The crop is not doing well on many farms, says LaMondia. “We have had way too much rain with a lot of variation within the valley. In places, the crop was drowned or stunted or both. Then we had wet and humid weather while we were curing, which lead to some storage mold.” Harvest is pretty much complete, but not much has been taken out of the barn. Already, though, a substantial part of this crop has been lost during the field season or to post-harvest problems. LaMondia doesn’t have a yield estimate yet, but while some crops look good, overall yields will definitely be lowered by weather conditions. The question of the day: LaMondia doesn’t know why manufacturers’ are looking for new places to grow broadleaf. “There are still growers here interested in growing it.”
In Tennessee, burley harvest is coming to an end, despite some rain delays. “We just need the spigot turned off,” says Mitchell Richmond, Tennessee Extension tobacco specialist. Much of the crop is in the barn, and the curing season has gone fairly well so far. But Richmond doesn’t know of any that has been stripped yet. He doesn’t have an estimate of production for Tennessee burley yet but notes that USDA estimated 4.5 million pounds in its last production report, nearly four percent more than in 2020.
In other tobacco news...
Little change in USDA projections: The USDA September Crop Report figures for tobacco issued on the twelfth were very similar to those in August. A version of the new data showing production by type-- and by state for flue and burley--with percentage change from a year ago follows.
· North Carolina—240 million pounds, up 30 percent;
· Virginia—30 million pounds, up 14 percent;
· Georgia--16 million pounds, down 17 percent; and
· South Carolina—16 million pounds, up 90 percent.
· All U.S. flue-cured—304.400 million pounds, up 28 percent.
· Kentucky—74 million pounds, up 2 percent;
· Pennsylvania--7.56 million pounds, up 4 percent;
· Tennessee—4.5 million pounds, down 3 percent;
· Virginia—612,000 pounds, down 10 percent;
· North Carolina—493,000 pounds, down 6 percent.
· All U.S. burley—87.165 million pounds, up 2 percent.
Fire-cured--47.5 million pounds, up 26 percent.
Dark air-cured—25.78 million pounds, up 6 percent.
Pennsylvania seedleaf –5.635 million pounds, no change.
Southern Maryland—One million pounds, up 8 percent.
Whose yield improved since August? A few states had a better yield than had been projected in the August report, indicating good growing conditions in August:
o Pennsylvania burley yield was up slightly from 2,600 pounds to 2,700 pounds,
o Pennsylvania seedleaf grown in Pennsylvania was up just a bit in yield, from 2,400 to 2,450 pounds,
o Kentucky fire-cured was up 10 percent from 3,000 pounds to 3,300 pounds, and
o Kentucky dark air-cured yield was up from 2,300 to 2,500 pounds.
o Georgia flue-cured, meanwhile, was projected down from 2,300 pounds to 2,000 pounds.
The government’s summation: 2021 tobacco production of all types is forecast at 469 million pounds, down slightly from last month but up 20 percent from 2020. Area harvested is down slightly from USDA’s previous forecast but up 13 percent from last year. Yield for the 2021 crop year is forecast at 2,102 pounds per acre, up 6 pounds from last month and 136 pounds above last year.
Auction sales for flue-cured have been strong so far, says Tommy Faulkner, auction manager at the American Tobacco Exchange in Wilson, N.C. “The trade is anticipating a short crop, so buyers are bidding aggressively on lugs and cutters, and even on some low end tobacco like pickouts.” Buyers are looking for clean styles. “You definitely want to pick out any waste," says Faulkner. "It will hurt your price.” The price has been good compared to the last few years. Faulkner estimates that quality lugs and cutters have brought from $1.35 to $1.75 per pound. File photo of flue-cured auction in Rural Hall, N.C., by Christopher Bickers.
Wrapping it up on the Deep South: Florida growers are for all practical purposes finished with the 2021 crop, says J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco specialist. “There is only one grower there that I know of who still has tobacco in the field,” he says. “Much of the crop in Florida was set out really early.”
The crop in Georgia still has a way to go, he says. “I would estimate 35 percent is still in the field.” But the leaf is coming out of the fields in a hurry now. “A few Georgia growers have finished completely, but I am expecting it to take till the middle of the month for us to completely finish harvesting.”
It isn’t a good crop in either state. “Heavy and unrelenting rains starting in June reduced yield and quality,” says Moore. “That’s sad because up to that point we had a beautiful crop with good expectations.” Rains associated with Tropical Storm Elsa and some of the other tropical storms were part of the problem. As a result, Deep South yields will be off 25 percent to 30 percent. One lesson to be learned: Tobacco does not do well in wet soils in wet years.
And there is a lesson from the delivery stations as well: “No company has a place for black oxidized leaf from the bottom of the stalk,” says Moore. “Buyers are definitely discriminating against it.” But that has been less of a problem lately. “As we are getting up the stalk, the leaf is getting clearer and has more body,” he says.
BURLEY AND DARK
This season’s dark crops are among the best in Kentucky and Tennessee in a long time, says Andy Bailey, Kentucky-Tennessee Extension dark specialist. “All the early planted crop, which was planted by the end of May, is in or nearly in. The late crop—planted in mid or late June—will be coming in in the next week or so. "At this point I would say that 70 percent of the total dark crop has been harvested. Our cigar wrapper tobacco was harvested by the 20th of August.”
USDA calculations: In Kentucky and Tennessee, burley cutting continues to move steadily with 47 and 46 percent harvested respectively as of September 5. “The tobacco crop is in mostly good condition at this time,” said USDA. In North Carolina, burley harvest was not nearly as far along, with 14 percent in the barn by that date.
Connecticut broadleaf has enjoyed better curing conditions this season than in any other year since the type was first grown in the Black Patch. “It has a more even color this year,” Bailey says. “Humidity conditions have pushed the crop to ripen earlier. Maybe 10 days. We noticed that every time we had a rain event.”
The Connecticut type may have found a place in western Kentucky and Tennessee. Jason Evitts grew it with a cousin for a second year on their farm in Hartsville, Tn. They did well enough in 2020 that they decided not to grow any burley this season, which was the first time there had been no burley on the farm in 100 years. When Tobacco Farmer Newsletter spoke to Evitts last Friday, all four acres of their Connecticut broadleaf had been harvested. But most of it was still in the barn--Leaf molds were a concern at that late date due to humid conditions. Evitts, the county Extension director in Trousdale County, says that to be successful with Connecticut, you have to change your management approach completely from the way you would approach corn or soybeans. “Management has to be intense,” he says.
Welcome to the September I, 2021, issue of Tobacco Farmer Newsletter. If you haven't signed on to receive the newsletter regularly, please email your subscription request to TFN at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include phone number and your affiliation with tobacco, such as farmer, buyer, dealer or Extension agent.