Monday, July 8, 2013


Young burley
A burley field ready to take off in June near Boone, N.C.

USDA issued its planted acreage report at the end of June. It showed flue-cured up five percent and burley up one percent--hardly the avalanche of plantings that some observers (including the  editor of this publication) predicted just a few months ago. There was one big surprise, so big I am not sure we should believe it. South Carolina flue-cured acreage, which was projected to be up 25 percent in USDA's March Prospective Plantings Report (see TFN, April 3, 2013), is now projected be down 25 percent. Another drastic change: Ohio burley was projected at 2,000 acres in March but now is pegged at 2,500 acres (an increase in that time period of 25 percent). And another: In Georgia, a one third increase in plantings since last year was projected. "I don't see how we could have 15,000 acres (5,000 acres more than 2013) as projected by USDA. We had enough plants for a bigger crop but had to discard many of them because no one wanted them." Moore estimates Georgia plantings at about 11, 000 acres, same as last year. 

Below are the numbers from USDA's June projection with the percentage change from last year. Feel free to check back here in about a week for more details. 

  • NC--170,000 acres, up 3.6%. 
  • VA--23,000 acres, up 15%. 
  • GA--15,000 acres, up 36%. 
  • SC--9,000 acres, down 25%. 
  • All US--217,000 acres, up 5.3%

  • KY--78,000 acres, up 5.1%. 
  • TN--13,000 acres, down 18.7%. 
  • PA--5,100 acres, up 8.5%. 
  • OH--2,500 acres, up 31.5%.
  • NC--2,300 acres, up 9.8%.
  • VA--1,700 acres, down 37%.
  • All US--102,600 acres, up 1.1%.
  • Fire-cured--18,400 acres, up 13.5%. 
  • Dark air-cured--5,000 acres, down 3.8%. 
  • Cigar types--4,850 acres, up 8.6%.
  • Southern Maryland--2,000 acres, down 31%.  
 Crop reports from the field

In southern Ohio, Pat Raines of Seaman, Oh., says he thinks acres are increasing in his state. "Many growers expanded their contracts. Some people who had stopped producing before got back in this year." The weather delayed transplanting on many farms. "Based on plant sales, I would say we are 75 to 80 percent finished [on June 14]. If the weather turns off well, we could still have an excellent crop. But some fields in Ohio might get washed out if there are heavy rains later." 

In northern Kentucky, a lot of burley was still being planted after June 15 in the Maysville, Ky., area, says Eldon Ginn. Some of the increase is planted by existing farmers who are expanding and some by new growers or by growers who are returning to the crop. Ginn knows of one farmer who increased his burley plantings from 150 acres last year to 400 acres this year.

In the Bluegrass of Kentucky, Jerry Rankin of Danville, Ky., says, "We are a little behind where we normally are, maybe a week to 10 days. The plants didn't grow as fast because of the cool weather." He thinks production may fall short of goals. "A lot of tobacco ground is going into row crops," he says. "Hay, alfalfa and wheat in silos, along with corn and soybeans, have all been competing for land with tobacco." 

In western Kentucky, says burley and dark grower Rod Kuegel of Owensboro, Ky., farmers generally like to have all of their tobacco planted by June 15, but they didn't make that deadline this season. "It appears now that it will be well into July before we finish transplanting. That is not what we want to see. We don't want to have to cut tobacco at Halloween."

In southwest Virginia, burley grower Kenneth Reynolds of Abingdon, Va., says he finished transplanting probably 10 days later than usual because of the weather. Planting was nearly complete by mid-June. Most lands have been planted. He thinks planted acreage is at least stable. "It may be up but not by a significant amount." 

In the Highland Rim of Tennessee, Bill Maksymowicz, agronomist for the Burley Stabilization Corporation, Springfield, Tn., says he traveled extensively in Tennessee and Kentucky visiting burley farms in recent weeks. "We are wrapping up transplanting. Some topping began last week. We are a little later than the last two years." He has seen few foliar diseases and no black shank or blue mold.  

In eastern North Carolina, Mitch Smith, Pitt County, N.C., Extension chairman, says tobacco there has enormous potential. "But the rain needs to stop. There could be water damage already, and it could interfere with our ability to apply contacts." There may already be an impact on yield. "In a rainy season, the crop tends to ripen very quickly," he says. "That can lead to a lower weight." 

In the Piedmont of North Carolina, there's been a lot of rain, says Dennis White, owner of Old Belt Tobacco Sales warehouse in Rural Hall, N.C. "Early set tobacco has had too much water," he says. "The later tobacco will more likely be the best of this crop. Some farmers started pulling last week (starting July 1). Most will start in the next two weeks, with the last ones starting the third week in August." 

On the border between the Carolinas, Ben Teal of Patrick, S.C., says there are a lot of different stages of growth in the field, and some fields had topped out by June 20. "Most of mine is looking pretty good except for the fields that got drenched by Andrea. That tobacco yellowed up and is short." There has been a change in his variety choice recently: He has increased the proportion of K 326 that he plants. "We have been able to plant on fresh land the last two years. That has allowed us to plant K 326. We also plant some CC 700. It produces well on sandy land."

In Florida, growers have an "outstanding" crop, says Extension specialist J. Michael Moore, who covers both Florida and Georgia. "They have had plenty of rainfall, but it hasn't been much of a problem: They are used to handling water." Harvest is well under way. "I believe a substantial amount of leaf will be ready for delivery the week of July 22, when stations open." He projects planted acreage at 1,100 acres, about the same as last year, although there might be a small increase.

In Georgia, rainy weather has caused some losses but Moore thinks Georgia farmers have about a 95% crop with what appears to be some good quality tobacco. "It has been very wet all across Georgia, but most of the tobacco has held up well. Most has been topped and suckered and is ready for that final growth spurt. Some re-fertilization is taking place."  

In other news from Georgia--
  • Spotted wilt incidence was low compared to what was expected, considering the mild winter. Early in the season--when the plant was most vulnerable--the statewide incidence was about eight to 10 percent, he says. "Since then, it has climbed to closer to 15 percent, but infections that late only cost you a few leaves, not the whole plant."
  • There was at most a one percent incidence of black shank so far.
  • Control of budworm has been good, thanks largely to extensive use of Coragen.
  • Rain fell nearly every day the week of July 4, delaying sucker control sprays and the start of harvest.
  • There are a number of new growers. Moore knows of 11 operations that are growing tobacco this year that weren't a year ago. "They range from young high school graduates just starting out to growers who have given up on tobacco since the buyout but kept their equipment and are coming back in."
  • There was a brisk market in used equipment over the winter. "I think all the used barns, transplanters and cultivators that have just been lying around were bought by active tobacco growers."
Marketing news

Another burley auction for 2013: Roger Wilson of Mt. Sterling, Ky., says that a live auction will be held this year at Clay's Tobacco Warehouse. For more information, contact Wilson at 859-498-6722.  

Here's an optimist: Dennis White, owner of the Old Belt Tobacco Sales warehouse in Rural Hall, N.C., tells Tobacco Farmer Newsletter, "If anyone has tobacco ready to market and needs money before delivery stations open, I will buy it now at contract prices, from any location." If you're interested, call White at 336-416-6262. White will announce the opening date of sales at his warehouse soon.  

Orders for flue-curing barns seem to have subsided as harvest approaches. But manufacturers tell me they are still working two shifts a day seven days a week to get all the orders met. One told me that he took his last official order for barns for this crop on June 11, but may sell a few more if he has any to spare before the harvest crunch. He and another manufacturer told TFN they have had indications that some farmers may go ahead and order barns for next season, to be built after the current traffic jam is over.

Tobacco tours coming up in the next 30 days

  • The N.C. Tobacco Tour begins at 6:15 p.m., Monday, July 15, with dinner at the Brass Lantern Steak House, 515 Spring Branch Road, Dunn, N.C. Tuesday July 16, the tour begins at 7 a.m. in the parking lot of the Dunn Hampton Inn, 100 Jesse Tart Circle (Exit 73, Interstate 95). Stops include research stations in Kinston and Rocky Mount and three farms. Wednesday, July 17, the tour begins at 7:30 a.m. at Edwards Farm, 100 Salem Church Rd., Wendell. Stops include the Oxford research station and two farms. The tour ends with lunch at 12 p.m. in Oxford. For more information, go to Or contact Mina Mila at 919-513-1291 or at

  • The S.C. Tobacco Tour starts with registration at 8:15 a.m., Tuesday, July 23, at the Tobacco Facility at the back of the Pee Dee Research and Education Center near Florence. Later, the tour will visit a farm using a wood-fired boiler for curing. The tour will end in midafternoon. For more information, contact Dewitt Gooden at 843-662-3526 or 
The Virginia Tobacco Field Day will be held at the Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research & Extension Center (two miles east of Blackstone on Rt. 40) on August 6. After a dinner at 5 p.m., the field day will begin at 6 p.m., ending about 8:30 p.m. Note: A forage and livestock field day will be held August 7 starting at 9 a.m. For more information, go to Margaret Kenny at 434-292-5331 or

 1723 Goldsboro St. SW, Wilson, N.C., 
in the old Liberty Warehouse


We will hold both sealed bid auctions 
and live auctions. 

 We promise



For more information, contact:
--Mann Mullen at 919-496-9033 
--Greg Ray at  252-799-6061  or
--the warehouse at 252-206-1447


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