Setting out flue-cured in Eastern NC. File photo by Christopher Bickers.
Reports on the crop's progress from selected areas of tobacco production
The outlook for tobacco in Georgia and Florida is favorable. “We are very hopeful of a good crop,” says J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco specialist. “Soil moisture is good, although we could use more rain now.” Transplanting in both states is complete.
Much of the crop is approaching layby. Moore is not sure of the acreages in the two states but says Georgia’s plantings are likely to be less than 6,500 in 2022. That would be 17 percent less than the 7,743 acres planted in 2021. In Florida, he thinks plantings will be down 10 percent from 1,691 in 2021 to 1,522 for 2022.
Tomato spotted wilt is ramping up. “At this point it appears to be 10 percent or less statewide, but we are seeing some fields with 50 percent infection. That might translate into a 25 percent loss in yield. That would be a big problem for this crop since so many expensive inputs will have already been expended by this time.
Budworm control is approaching in Georgia and Florida, and this too needs to be done right. “Besides precision application, you need a good scouting program to determine when to spray without wasting any of your chemicals.”
Sucker control is another area for economies, and that’s important because prices appear to be up about 30 percent. “Start on a timely basis,” says Moore. “Use all three means of control: contacts, maleic hydrazide and the orange chemicals.” If you use everything when it needs to be used, good control should be achievable.
Everything is looking good in Tennessee, says Mitchell Richmond, Extension tobacco specialist. Setting of burley began last week in middle Tennessee and is in full swing there now. Several growers in east Tennessee started planting burley this week. Planting will probably pick up as this week progresses, he says. “I expect most of the crop will be set in the next two weeks.
The greenhouse season was good, he said. "Our plants are ready to take to the field. We have had good weather since we began planting.” But Tennesseans across the state will need some water pretty soon.
A cost-saving reminder: Variety selection is the first step in controlling black shank in tobacco. If you are in a field with known black shank, make sure you properly apply transplant water applications of fungicides by following the label. This is no year to be losing any control because of inefficiency.
Plantings so far (from participating states):Flue-cured--VA, 53%. NC, 74%. SC, 80%. GA, 100%. FL, 100%. Burley—KY, 11%. VA, 29%. Dark—VA, 31%. Source:Crop and Progress Report, NASS
REPORT FROM OVERSEAS
Zimbabwe--Could wheat attract acres out of tobacco? Zimbabwean officials are promoting wheat plantings since imports from Ukraine—a major source of wheat for Zimbabwe—has largely been forced out of the international market. There has been public discussion that at least some tobacco fields could be converted to wheat. Key factor--Many tobacco fields in Zimbabwe have access to irrigation which would be very handy for wheat production.
Setting out burley in the Bluegrass. File photo by Christopher Bickers.
Full-bore: Flue-cured planting has been going “full-bore” for about three weeks now, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. A few fields were planted four weeks ago. Contrary to earlier concerns, there should be no holdups because of scarce plants. “The current transplant supply is good, and I do not foresee any shortages absent something unforeseen happening.”
The tobacco transplanted so far looks really good,” he says. ”The weather has largely been very favorable, in spite of a lot of wind and major temperature swings.” There was patchy frost last week, but no substantial damage was reported. “But we could stand a good soaking rain of about one inch.”
Transplanting is ending in the Pee Dee. “A few are still working at it, but they should be finished soon,” says William Hardee, S.C. Extension tobacco specialist. Stands look good. Up till now, the weather has been good but it is getting dry, he says.
Transplanting has only just begun but if the weather holds, more farmers may start this week, says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension specialist. “And transplanting will really get going after Derby Day (May 7).” The greenhouse season has gone smoothly so far, he says. “Plants are a little uneven but there are no major problems.” Pearce doesn’t have an estimate on plantings yet, but he doubts that the earlier USDA estimate of a three percent increase for the state is likely (See TFN April I). “We might see a 10 or 15 percent decrease,” he says.
The planting season may begin in middle Tennessee by the end of this week, says Rob Ellis, director of the Highland Rim AgResearch Center at Springfield, Tn. But it definitely hasn’t started yet. “I have been all over this area and I’ve not seen the first plant in the ground.” The Center hasn’t planted any of its tobacco yet but most of their soil is dry enough that it could be worked now. That wasn’t the case earlier, he says. “It was very wet a few weeks ago. Our corn planting was delayed, but we finished it last week."
A record number of tobacco types will be in tests at the Springfield center this season. In most past years, the types in testing were burley, dark air-cured and fire-cured. In 2021, they added Connecticut broadleaf, and this year they are also testing Pennsylvania seed leaf on a limited basis. The two new types are both cigar wrapper types.
It’s been very wet in the Kentucky-Tennessee dark-producing area this spring and that has delayed the start of setting. “I suspect a few dark growers may have set a few acres but most are waiting for the soil to get drier.” Bailey says.
Dark vs. wrapper? Andy Bailey, Kentucky-Tennessee Extension dark specialist doesn’t think either Connecticut Broadleaf or Pennsylvania Seedleaf--both cigar wrapper types--will see increased plantings this season in western Kentucky and Tennessee. They may indeed experience asignificant reduction, he says, because the major dark manufacturer offered a substantial increase in contracts for dark tobacco in the Black Patch.
Recovering from the storm: Only one tobacco test will be conducted this season on the research facilities at the Princeton center, which were almost completelydestroyed by a tornado in December. It will take at least two years to get them functional again, but testing in the field will be resumed in coming weeks using plots at Murray State University [an hour’s drive away], the UT Highland Rim Research and Education Center in Springfield, TN, and on individual farms.
There's an incentive this year to plant fire-cured fast:Due to a dramatic increase in acreage expected this year, much of the dark fire-cured crop will have to be double-cropped, and that requires an early crop to be transplanted by mid-May, says Bailey.
Flue-cured plantings so far: Georgia, 83%, SC, 51%. NC, 36%. VA, 12%. Source:Crop and Progress Report, NASS.
Drew Clapp has been named Drexel’s East Coast sales representative responsible for sales in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. A graduate with two degrees from NC State University, he lives in Greensboro, N.C., and can be contacted at 901 287 9296.
Tom Tucker has joined Yara’s Mid-Atlantic team as a Senior Sales Agronomist. He will be responsible for delivering Yara’s crop nutrition solutions to growers and providing support to retailers in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and northern North Carolina. A graduate with two degrees from NC State University, Tucker will be based out of his home office in Raleigh, N.C. He can be reached at tom. firstname.lastname@example.org or (919) 935-9897.
REPORT FROM OVERSEAS
How much tobacco did Brazil growers produce in the last crop, which was marketed from October until early this year? According to Afubra, the Brazilian tobacco growers association, volume was down 9.38 percent to 569,539 tons, compared to last season’s 628,489 tons. Plantings were down by about the same percentage: 9.78 percent, from 273,317 hectares in 2021 to 243,590 hectares this year. The expected yield is 2,310 kg/ha compared to 2,299 kg/ha last year.
Not over yet? The decline in Brazil may not have ended. The president of Afubra, Benício Werner, pointed to three obstacles that might lead to further reduction:
Grower frustration with recent market seasons have been a major factor in the reduction in tobacco planting.
With other crops providing greater profitability, tobacco producers are investing more in diversification.
Tobacco growers are adapting their product offer to market demand.
Farmers in this African country sold 94,453 kilograms of flue-cured tobacco for US $243,500 on opening day of its market, according to the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB). That was 40.54 percent more than the previous year when 92,106 kg was sold for US $173,256. The average price was $2.58 per kg. It had been $1.88 on the first day of the previous season.
Low volume, higher prices: TIMB Executive Meanwell Gudu told the Zimbabwe Herald he expects firm prices because of lower production. He also predicted Brazil will likely be 80 million kg short of usual production because of drought.
The 2022 greenhouse season is under way, says a dispatch from the Canadian Tobacco Research Foundation. The start has been cool and cloudy. All greenhouses have been seeded since early April. Overall, seedling stands in greenhouses should provide adequate transplants for this year’s crop.
Transplanting on an Ohio burley farm in 2017. Photo by Christopher Bickers.
Planting in Florida and Georgia is progressing well, says J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco specialist. By Saturday, he expects half the crop will probably be planted, perhaps more in Florida. USDA’s Prospective Plantings Report had earlier projected plantings of 8,000 acres for Georgia, but Moore is very dubious that this will materialize. “I don’t think we will get to 7,000 acres,” he says. No report on Florida acreage yet…There will be plenty of transplants for every grower in the two states thanks to good growing conditions. There may in fact be enough of a supply to send some plants to other states if they need them, he says. As in all recent years, nearly all transplants in Ga/Fl were grown by a relatively small number of commercial producers…The stand of this crop in the field looks good so far, but there some fields will need replanting.
About 25 percent of the South Carolina crop will probably have been set out by Saturday, says William Hardee, S.C. Extension tobacco specialist. The transplant-growing season has gone well. “We saw some rhizoctonia and Pythium in a few houses but neither was a huge problem”… Soil moisture has been suitable for transplanting so far, but now Hardee says, “We could use some rain.” …With investments already made in transplant production and land prep, many S.C. farmers are concerned with how to move forward with the late contract cuts, he adds…This would be a good year to take a hard look at soil sample results and possibly take advantage of built-up nutrient levels.
In Raleigh, North Carolina, the US Tobacco Cooperative has cut its contracts to growers by 75 percent from last year. Some farmers are taking the full cut, but others reportedly will plant some beyond their reduced contracts in hopes of selling it in an alternate market.
BURLEY AND DARK
Seeding is nearly complete in Kentucky, says Bob Pearce,
Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. “A few are running a little late but most should be done by now.” First clipping is get-ting close for early seeded greenhouses. “Transplant-ing is three weeks away at the earliest.” …How much burley? USDA’s Prospective Planting Report, projected that Kentuckians will plant 36,000 acres of burley, up three percent from last season. But Pearce is dubious that this level of plantings can be achieved. “What I am hearing is that a lot of burley acreage from last year will not be planted in 2022,” says Pearce. The report projected 3,200 acres for Tennessee, up 10 percent. and 1,800 acres for Pennsylvania, down 28 percent...Pearce agrees with previous reports that some of the expected increase in dark plantings is coming from farmers who formerly planted dark and burley but who are replacing burley with dark this year.
Is it possible that a farmer could grow an average crop of tobacco and sell it for the average prices and still not make back the money he spend on inputs thanks to their rising costs? A scary thought, indeed, and at this point, the only strategy is going to be to keep production costs as low as possible. TFN will share any time a good one shows up. Including the three that follow.
TIPS FOR MINIMIZING
This is no year to be experimenting with unproven inputs, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. “Stay with the practices that have proven their worth. You can do your own testing in years when the outlook is better.”
This may be the year to save money on phosphate and potash by carefully following soil test recommendations, says Andy Bailey, Kentucky-Tennessee Extension dark tobacco specialist. “Two thirds of Kentucky soil tests from tobacco fields--analyzed by the University of Kentucky soil lab each year-- will recommend zero phosphorus needed, and one third will recommend zero potassium needed,” he says Bailey.”Follow those recommendations to save costs.”
For the next crop, plan to go the extra mile on tray sanitation once your greenhouses are empty.
--Flue-cured--There’s been no transplanting so far in N.C., says Vann. “I know two or three growers who want to start on April 5 or 6. But morning temperatures may be too cold for that.” Farmers in N.C. had a fairly good greenhouse season, he says. “A good crop of plants should be going to the field.”
--Dark--Seeding is nearly finished in the Black Patch. “We should be done next week. I haven’t seen any clipping, but it should start soon,” says Bailey. Seeding started a little late, in part because some media wasn’t available. There has also been some chilling as daytime temperature sometimes got to 85 degrees while night temperatures reached 55 degrees, a situation that can cause chilling.
In other tobacco news:
A shift to dark types: Some shift from burley to the dark types has been observed. But it is not a case of dark moving out of the tra-ditional area of Kentucky and Tennessee. Instead, farmers who have grown dark types along with burley are dropping their burley and making up some or all of the difference with dark.
New tobacco pathologist in Virginia: Yuan Zeng will begin work as tobacco pathologist stationed at the Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Blackstone by August 12. Zeng, a graduate of Beijing Forestry University, China, earned three graduate degrees at Auburn. She will be performing research, Extension and teaching responsibilities on a number of field crops, including corn and soybeans as well as tobacco.
THE NEW USDA PROSPECTIVE PLANTING REPORT
--announced March 31--projects 15 and 14 percent increases in acreage respectively for fire-cured and dark air-cured types but only two and one percent increases for flue-cured and burley. Tobacco of all types was projected up three percent. Details follow:
North Carolina, 126,000 acres, up five percent over last year. Virginia, 12,500 acres, down 14 percent. Georgia, 8,000 acres, same as last year. South Carolina, 6,500 acres, down 14 percent. United States, 153,000 acres, up two percent.
Kentucky, 36,000 acres, up three percent. Tennessee, 3,200 acres, up 10 percent. Pennsylvania, 1,800 acres, down 28 percent. Virginia, 300 acres, down 17 percent. North Carolina, 200 acres, down 20 percent. United States 41,500 acres, up one percent.
FIRE-CURED Kentucky, 10,000 acres, up 15 percent.
Tennessee, 6,600 acres. 10 percent. Virginia, 350 acres, up 106 percent. United States, 16,950 acres, up 14 percent.
Kentucky, 7,200 acres, up 18 percent. Tennessee, 4,800 acres, up 20 percent. United States, 12,000 acres, 19 percent.
CIGAR FILLER: Pennsylvania Seedleaf (Pennsylvania only). 2,600 acres, up four percent.
SOUTHERN MARYLAND: Pennsylvania only, 250 acres, down 29 percent.
ALL TOBACCO: United States, 226,300 acres, up three percent.
There’s been a lot of rain in much of south Georgia in the past week--11 inches in this particular field. Some drowning took place, but dry weather is expected next week, and Georgia Extension tobacco specialist J. Michel Moore expects transplanting to get going in full force. Speeding the process will be the signing (finally) of contracts with dealers such as Alliance One and Universal Leaf and perhaps with the US Tobacco Cooperative.
Interest in the cigar wrapper type Connecticut broad leaf has fallen off in Kentucky and Tennessee. Why? It's because the new (to the South) type requires more intense manage-ment than either burley or dark air-cured. “We tried growing it last year but it didn’t fit our way of doing things,” says Rod Kuegel, an Owensboro, Ky., farmer who grows dark air-cured and who has grown burley. But dark fire-cured growers may find Connecticut a more compatible choice. “Both Connecticut and fire-cured production are both more of an art form than burley and dark air-cured,” says Kuegel.
It’s no wonder why Black Patch growers are abandoning burley for dark air-cured. “While the companies have been keeping burley growers in the dark about contracts, the leading dark air-cured buyer has announced a 60 percent increase in volume for 2022, a 14 cent a pound increase in price and also stipends for H2A and Gap cost increases,” says Kuegel. “It is definitely a better relationship.”
The last burley warehouse conducting auctions in the burley belt sold it’s lowest ever volume in the season just ended. About 900,000 pounds were sold on the floor at Farmers Tobacco Warehouse near Springfield, Ky., says owner Jerry Rankin. He calculates the average price as $1.88 to $1.94 per pound with a practical top price of $1.99. But note: Those prices fell way off the last two weeks of sales as the last of the crop—much of it low quality--flooded the market.
Next season? Rankin hopes to conduct sales at the warehouse, which operated in Danville, Ky., all its existence until this past season. But that depends on how much burley gets planted; not enough was planted in 2021, and the outlook is bleak for the coming season.
Burley buyers fell all over themselves to acquire any good quality leaf that was available later in the season, says Rankin. Reason? Not enough burley was produced to meet their needs. Rankin knows of a number of cases where companies bought all a farmers leaf even if it was more than the contracted amount.
A reminder of the requirements to receive crop insurance on flue-cured this year: Flue-cured tobacco grown under a valid contract from a processor or manufacturer will receive one price, while tobacco grown without a valid contract will receive a different price. Producers with a valid contract who choose to grow more tobacco than contracted will receive a weighted average price for all their insured tobacco. Also, the amount eligible for quality adjustment will be limited to the amount of tobacco grown under contract.
Choose a greenhouse medium: The particle size distribution of a greenhouse medium determines many characteristics that are important in plant growth. Research has shown that a wide range of particle sizes is suitable. After you find a medium with a good range of particle sizes for tobacco production, make sure that it is free of sticks, stems, clods, and weed seeds and evaluate its moisture content, uniformity, and fertilizer charge.
Correction: In the last issue of Tobacco Farmer Newsletter, Tennessee tobacco specialist Mitchell Richmond should have been quoted as saying that in his state, “I expect seeding to get going full speed next week [which would be this week],” instead of “transplanting.”
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
I appreciate reading your newsletter as always. I’m interested in your future reports re the newer burley group in Kentucky. It’s still under court supervision and will be for the near future. In less than two years burley coop class members will have the opportunity to claim back any remaining $ of the $1.4 million allowed by the court. It is now is protected in a court supervised account.