Saturday, August 11, 2012

Big crops for N.C. flue-cured and Tennessee burley

It was nothing but smiles for flue-cured grower Johnny McLawhorn on August 9 as his workers harvested the second level of leaf on his farm near the town of Hookerton in eastern N.C.

After the dismal production of 2011, both flue-cured and burley appear headed toward much better production, according to the USDA August Crop Report, issued this morning. North Carolina flue-cured and Tennessee burley--and to a lesser extent both types in Virginia--lead the way in percentage increase.

FLUE-CURED--The prospects for the U.S. flue-cured continue to improve. The USDA August Crop Report projected production of the type will reach at least 446 million pounds. That is 29 percent above last year and 14 million pounds more than was projected a month ago. Most of the increase is projected in North Carolina where production is up nearly 40 percent at 346.5 million pounds. Among the other flue-cured states: South Carolina is up two percent at 27 million pounds, as is Virginia, up 11 percent at 48.3 million pounds. But Georgia is down almost 10 percent at 24.1 million pounds. Florida doesn’t participate in the survey, but a substantial drop in production can be expected because of Tropical Storm Debbie.
BURLEY production is projected to increase over last year too, although not nearly as much. It is expected to total 186 million pounds, up eight percent from last year. Among the individual states: the big news comes from Tennessee, where production is expected to be up 26 percent at 28.5 million pounds. Kentucky is projected to be up five percent at 134.9 million pounds. Virginia is up a healthy 20 percent at 4.5 million pounds and Pennsylvania is up two percent, at 11.2 million pounds. North Carolina is down 23 percent at 2.7 million pounds while Ohio production remains about the same at 3.6 million pounds.

OTHER TYPES: Fire-cured is down eight percent at 47.2 million pounds. Dark air-cured is down 19 percent at 13 million pounds. Cigar types are up 12 percent at 8.6 million pounds while for Southern Maryland there is no change at 6.6 million pounds.

How credible are the USDA survey results? There was some skepticism about the N.C. flue-cured projection, although certainly everyone expects a major recovery from the hurricane-damaged 2011 crop. But with all the uncertainty, the 346.5 million pound figure may be on the high side, says an Extension tobacco agent in a major eastern N.C. county. “But we may come close to it or even possibly achieve it.” 
And what about the big increase  in Tennessee? The additional thousand acres that USDA says was planted in Tennessee seems very credible to Daniel Green, Chief Operating Officer of the Burley Stabilization Corporation of Springfield, Tn. “We strived to increase plantings among our contracting farmers and had some success,” he said. “The 300-pound-per-acre yield increase that USDA projects is certainly significant, but I think it might be just about right.”

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The 2012 crop begins arriving at market

Flue-cured growers could be looking at another very late crop as in 2010 when this farmer near Raleigh, N.C., finished harvest (shown here) on October 12.
Flue-cured harvest is going full swing but is later than normal. In Pitt County, a major flue-cured producing county in eastern N.C., Extension director Mitch Smith told Tobacco Farmer Newsletter Friday, "The crop is starting to recover from the drought. Most growers have harvested the first position and are waiting for the second position to ripen. The crop is about two weeks delayed." Smith anticipates that it will be well into October before harvest is complete. "So there will be a lot of concern about hurricanes. We lost nearly half of last year's crop to Irene." But a good yield appears within reach if the weather cooperates, said Smith. Flue-cured plantings in Pitt County are down from 6,600 acres in 2011 to 5,202 acres this year. The small burley plantings are up slightly at 120 acres. There is one dark air-cured planting with three acres. 

Who has had it driest this season? Andy Bailey, Extension tobacco specialist, thinks it would be the dark-tobacco and burley-growing area of Kentucky and Tennessee. "We are 15 inches below normal on rainfall," said Bailey, who works out of Princeton, Ky. "We have had a little spotty rain, but we need a half day of general rain, and we never got it." Farmers irrigated as much as they could. Bailey estimates irrigated dark tobacco will yield 300 pounds per acre less than normal while unirrigated dark will be off 500 pounds. 

The first tobacco auction of the year will take place on August 28 at the only auction warehouse in North Carolina. Dennis White, manager of Old Belt Tobacco Sales in Rural Hall, N.C., said both flue-cured and burley will be sold. "There will be at least five buyers," he told Tobacco Farmer Newsletter at the beginning of August. "USDA graders will be available to grade your tobacco for Federal Crop Insurance if you need it." Receiving will start August 20. To schedule delivery, call White at 336-416-6262.

A new control chemical for blue mold: Revus, manufactured by Syngenta, gives control of blue mold at a rate of eight fluid ounces per acre. Begin applications prior to disease development and continue throughout the season on a seven to 10 day interval, the manufacturer says. Make no more than two consecutive applications before switching to an effective non-Group 40 fungicide. Revus may be tank mixed with other fungicides labeled for blue mold that have a different mode of action. The post-harvest interval is seven days.

Blue mold has appeared in Massachusetts and Connecticut shade-grown tobacco. The first sighting was on a farm in Southwick, Ma., on July 18. The second was at the state Valley Laboratory in Windsor, Ct., on July 26. The disease was not widespread at either site. The source is unknown. "It is possible that the disease resulted from recent long-distance exposure from Pennsylvania," said James LaMondia, Connecticut state tobacco pathologist. "It is also possible that an undiscovered local source may be present."

But no more blue mold has been reported in Pennsylvania, where a minor outbreak occurred in June. “However, weather conditions are prime for blue mold now," said Jeff Graybill, Pa. Extension agronomy educator, told TFN Friday. “Recent rains have made for large, leafy and tall plants, so I would think that some fields may see problems.” But most of the crop has been topped, which should reduce susceptibility, he said.

The first sale of the year at the only auction warehouse in North Carolina will take place on August 28. Dennis White, manager of Old Belt Tobacco Sales in Rural Hall, N.C., says both flue-cured and burley will be sold. “There will be at least five buyers,” he told Tobacco Farmer Newsletter at the beginning of August. “USDA graders will be available to grade your tobacco for Federal Crop Insurance if you need it. Receiving will start August 20. To schedule delivery, call White at 336 416 6262.

Three tobacco events in Kentucky in August: The Kentucky Burley Tour takes place August 7 and 8, starting 1 p.m., Tuesday, at Spindletop Farm near Lexington, Ky. Second day begins at 8 a.m., Wednesday, with tour stops in Fayette, Woodford, Anderson, Mercer and Nelson Counties, ending up Wednesday afternoon near Bardstown. For information, call 859-221-2465. The Princeton Tobacco and Grains Field Day will be held August 9 at the Princeton, Ky., Research and Education Center, starting at 7:30 a.m. and ending at lunch. For more information, call 270- 365-7541 extension 0. The Kentucky Dark Tobacco Twilight Tour, starts at 5:30 pm., Tuesday, August 14,  at Murray, Ky., and continues till 7:30 p.m., ending with supper. The site is located on Hwy 1660 (Robertson Rd.) Murray State University near the West Farm. For more information, call or email Andy Bailey, tobacco specialist, at 270-365-7541 ext. 240 or at


NC Tobacco Book
Buy "A Brief History of North Carolina Tobacco" by Billy Yeargin, from History Press. The days when rural life revolved around tobacco planting and harvest are gone, but many fondly remember when North Carolina was the state of farming, planting and picking tobacco. In this book, historian Yeargin takes readers back to the days when communities were founded and built upon tobacco culture, and when traditions developed as industries were born. For a copy, send $21.99 to 112 N. Webb St., Selma, N.C. For more informa-tion, email Yeargin at avaiIable: A companion work called "Remembering North Carolina Tobacco," also by Yeargin. Retail price is $19.99. Specify which or both books you want and send check or money order, made out to Billy Yeargin, at the above address.