Monday, March 24, 2014

Could liquid nicotine be your next new crop?

GreenhouseTrays in an east Tennessee greenhouse seeded March 8 were waiting for germination on March 13. Variations in temperature had the grower--Jeff Aiken of Tedford--worried about development of the seedlings.

You may soon produce liquid nicotine as an alternate crop. To date, the nicotine for electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) appears to have come from China, India and maybe Eastern Europe, says Rod Kuegel, burley and dark tobacco grower from Owensboro, Ky. "This product should be produced in the U.S. We [Americans] have the best controls on pesticide residues that exist in tobacco. If electronic cigarettes are supposed to be healthier, how can they use nicotine from tobacco that doesn't measure up to ours?" An effort is under way to see if this market could be developed, and he is sure that an experimental batch of liquid nicotine will be produced somewhere in the burley belt this year. However it is produced, the process should not be difficult for Americans to master, says Kuegel, who is president of the Council for Burley Tobacco. 

E-cig manufacturers usually dissolve their liquid nicotine in a solution of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin or polyethylene glycol, says N.C. Extension economist Blake Brown. The future of e-cigs is difficult to forecast: Brown says one projection suggests that e-cigs will overtake traditional cigarettes in sales volume by 2023. "We will just have to see how the technology advances," he says. "But it's one factor that could really impact the cigarette market in the future."

Reports from the field...

In the coastal plain of South Carolina, cold temperatures in February were bad enough. But Ben Teal of Patrick, S.C., says he was more worried about "three straight days when the sun didn't come out at all." But so far, his plants (seeded February 17) look good, he told TFN earlier today. "I got a pretty good germination, about 85 percent to 90 percent." He plans to bed up some land later this week if the weather cooperates and will start clipping for the first time next week.  

In eastern Te
nnessee, extreme temperature changes after seeding didn't bode well for greenhouse plants, says Jeff Aiken, who farms in Tedford, Tn., between Greeneville and Johnson City. "If you get conditions like this, there is a chance you will have problems of germination," he says. "We try to avoid wide variations in the temperature inside the greenhouse." He started seeding March 8...Aiken says the acreage of burley has been gradually increasing in his area. "But it is not because there has been a mass reemergence of growers," he says. "It has primarily been a matter of growers who stayed in it planting more." 
In eastern North Carolina, wind damage is often a problem in the spring. Michael Gregory of Four Oaks has found that keeping his rye cover crop growing until the last plowing provides wind protection for young plants. When it is time to bed, they use hooded sprayers to burn down the rye with gramoxone. But not in the truck rows. "What will happen is if it's been dry and the sand gets dry, (then) if we get much wind, it will blow the sand and burn small plants right up," says Gregory, who farms with his father Joe and neighbor Timmy McLamb. When they plow for the last time, they disk up the truck rows at last plowing. 
A short course on tobacco: Gregory was one of a group of 35 farmers, representatives of government and allied industries who participated recently in a short course designed to promote efficient production of quality tobacco. The N.C. State Tobacco Short Course was held early in 2014. "If you aren't efficient and if you don't manage money very well, you won't survive in the current environment," says Gregory. "But if you cut corners too close, it will hurt in the long run. That's why the short course was so valuable. As remote as we are located, it is hard to keep up with what is happening." He also derived a lot of benefit from talking with growers from other areas and comparing ways of doing things, he says. Besides Gregory, the participants (all from N.C.) were--
  • Farmers: Paul Skinner, Bladensboro; D.J. Byerly, Kernersville; Clayton Eaton, Belews Creek; Jason and Natalie Farmer, Louisburg; Lee and Sydney Dunn, Wendell; Michael High, Bailey; Scott Tilley, Spring Hope; Ross Collins, Maysville; Worth Williams, Farmville; Chad Oxendine, Rowland; brothers James and Cody Hairr, Salemburg; Adam Mitchell, Pinnacle; Jeffrey Boykin, Sims, and Jes Lancaster, Elm City.
  • Government: County agents--Alamance Co.--Dwayne Dabbs; Lee Co., Kim Tungate; Sampson Co.--Della King; and Surry/Yadkin Co.--James Boggs. N.C. Department of Agriculture--Agronomists Adam Lassiter, Chris Jernigan and Chris Leek; Travis Lassiter, Central Crops Research Station, Clayton; Brett Bynam, Andy Myers and Ray Oates, Cunningham Research Station, Kinston; Kyle Miller, Mountain Research Station, Waynesville; Keith Eller, Upper Mountain Research Station, Laurel Springs, and Beth Farrell, Ag Programs specialist. 
  • Industry: Ping Zhang of International Tobacco Co.; Mike Narron, Carolina Precision Consulting; David Grimes, Reynolds Tobacco.
The program was conducted by the N.C. Tobacco Foundation in partnership with the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at N.C. State University. A grant from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission helped fund the program. 

All times Eastern unless otherwise noted. For more information, please call 865-622-4606 or visit

  • March 26, 6 p.m. Clyde Austin 4-H Center, 214 4-H Lane, Greeneville, Tn. Contact: 423-798-1710
  • March 27, 6 p.m. Grainger County Meeting, Ag Pavilion, 280 Bryan Rd., Rutledge, Tn. Contact: Anthony Carver, 865-828-3411(

Contact for the following meetings is Jeff Graybill, Pennsylvania Extension, Lancaster County, 717-394-6851. 
  • March 31, 11 a.m. Ira Hertzler Farm, 28379 Thompson Corner Rd., Mechanicsville, Md.
  • April 1, 9 a.m. 172 South Lime St., Quarryville, Pa.
  • April 1, 1 p.m. 172 South Lime St., Quarryville, Pa.
  • April 2, 9 a.m. Garden Spot Fire Rescue, 369 East Main St., New Holland, Pa.
  • April 2, 1 a.m. Garden Spot Fire Rescue, 369 East Main St., New Holland, Pa.
  • April 3, 11 a.m. Penn 80 Travel Plaza, 1460 No. Ridge Rd., Milton, Pa.

Tytun 2014
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Thursday, March 6, 2014


Prepping to clip plants. A worker on a flue-cured farm near Raeford, N.C., prepares a mower to clip greenhouse plants last spring in this file photo.

Exports of U.S. leaf are up, but not because of our traditional customers, says Blake Brown, N.C. Extension economist. "The European Union (traditionally the leading destination for U.S. exports) is trending down." But the demand in China is robust, and that is keeping exports strong, said Brown, who spoke at the recent meeting of Tobacco Associates (TA) in Wilson, N.C. Short global supplies of flavor style, good quality flue-cured should work in our favor.

There appears to be uncertainty among the buying companies about the potential size of the tobacco market this year, says Mack Grady of Cureco, Seven Springs, N.C. They have slowed their contracting considerably since the beginning of this year. "I think this has slowed down the emphasis on updating infrastructure on the farms that we saw earlier. We can still hope the companies will come back with some extra pounds once they are sure what is going to happen in the southern hemisphere." His company has a "plateful" of orders right now, says Grady, about like what it had in 2012 and 2013 at about this time. The company installs curing controls on all kinds of barns. "We are doing old barns, middle-aged barns and new barns," he says. "But we have been slowed by the wet weather this winter. Some of our customers who want to move barns can't because it has been too wet and cold to pour concrete."

But barns continue to move. Bob Pope, general manager of Long Tobacco Barn Company in Tarboro, N.C., says, "Many farmers expressed interested in new barns at the Southern Farm Show, and we sold quite a few. We have continued to sell barns since then and, though we have already taken a lot of orders for 2014 barns, we still have a few June barns left. We will continue building 2014 barns through September." Pope says barn haulers tell him they are very busy moving used barns that are bringing record high prices, which suggests tobacco farmers remain enthusiastic about their future prospects.

A substantial portion of the Kentucky and Ohio burley crop from 2013 may still lack a home. Contracting for 2014 is already well under way but it appears that there is still a lot of 2013 burley left on the farm, says Steve Pratt, GM of theBurley
Pat Raines
Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association (BTGCA). "That's a problem because most tobacco company receiving stations closed the last week of February," he says. "Here at the cooperative, we are going to keep accepting deliveries till we close March 21, but we can't handle all the leaf that is out there." Part of the problem has been the cold weather, which has made it difficult to get the leaf in case. Some resourceful methods of marketing the remaining burley may be required, says Pratt. "I am sure the auctions will handle some of it." So far, the prices offered for 2014 burley seem similar to last year, says Pat Raines, a Seaman, Ohio, burley grower and BTGCA chairman, who also attended the TA meeting. "I think we (burley growers) may plant five percent more this year," he says.

For flue-cured, a small acreage increase seems likely,
says Tim Yarbrough, the flue-cured grower in Prospect Hill, N.C., who is the new president of the Tobacco Growers Association of N.C. If that is true and 
if farmers produce an average yield, we might see an average price about ten cents less this season compared to 2013, he says. "That would be livable if we can keep variable costs under control. I hope we are not looking at an oversupply situation. Soft demand and too much tobacco would be a 'perfect storm' leading to a much lower price." Yarbrough, who farms with his brother Kenneth in Caswell County in the Old Belt, says they may increase plantings by five percent. "We are not looking to expand a great deal," he says. "We don't have the land availability we would need." 

Dark air-cured growers in Kentucky and Tennessee will apparently have the opportunity to contract additional pounds this season, although the increase may be modest. "Our yield in 2013 was low, and some companies reported falling 10 percent to 15 percent of their goal," says Andy Bailey, Extension dark tobacco specialist. "I am hearing of growers getting 4,000 pound increases. Burley contracts appear to be similar to last year, and farmers are enthusiastic after the good price for the last crop. "There were some crops in this area that averaged $2.05 at all stalk positions." Plantings of all tobacco types may be favored by the drop in the price of grain. "Farmers may divert some acres into tobacco instead," he says.

Don't seed too soon in Kentucky. March 15 is soon enough to seed greenhouses most years, says Bailey, and that is especially true with the price of propane up. "I hope no one seeded before March 1. In Kentucky, there is no real good reason ever to seed tobacco in February."

How to economize on potassium: "Flue-cured growers don't need to apply as much as they historically have," says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "We average applying 120 to 130 pounds per acre across the state, while the recommendation is 90 pounds per acre." There is research that has suggested that you can reduce the application rate as low as 75 pounds per acre under certain soil conditions without affecting yield or quality, he says. 


All times Eastern except as marked. For more information, please call 865-622-4606 or visit

  • March 7, 1 p.m. McLean County Extension Office, Calhoun, Ky. Contact: (270) 273-3690.
  • March 19, 10 a.m. Surry Community College, 630 S. Main St., Dobson, N.C. Contact: 336-371-0189.  
  • March 19, 6 p.m. (Introduction to Tobacco GAP at 5 p,m,). Mason County Extension Office. 800 U.S. 68, Maysville, Ky. Contact: Tad Campbell, (606) 564-6808 or
  • March 20, 6:30 p.m. CT. Barren County Tobacco Meeting, Barren County Extension Office, 1463 West Main St. Glasgow, Ky. Contact: Kristin Goodin, (270) 651-3818,
  • March 25, 6 p.m. South East Ky. Tobacco Meeting, Laurel County Extension Office, 200 County Extension Rd., London, Ky. Contact: Glenn Williams (606) 864-4167, 
  • March 13, 7 p.m. Middle Tennessee Research & Education Center, 1000 Main Entrance Dr., Spring Hill, Tn. Contact: Joe Beeler,
  • March 17, 6 p.m., Pickett County Agricultural Learning Center, 130 Skyline Dr., Byrdstown, Tn. Contact: Bill Garrett, 931-864-3310.
  • March 26, 6 p.m. Clyde Austin 4-H Center, 214 4-H Lane, Greeneville, Tn. Contact: 423-798-1710. 
  • March 27, 6 p.m. Grainger County Meeting, Ag Pavilion, 280 Bryan Rd., Rutledge, Tn. Contact: Anthony Carver, 865-828-3411
OHIO (Burley)
  • March 10, 4 p.m. Ohio Valley Career and Technical Center, 175 Lloyd Rd., West Union, Ohio. Contact:
  • March 10, 7:30 p.m. Ohio Valley Career and Technical Center, 175 Lloyd Rd., West Union, Ohio. Contact:
  • March 19, 1 p.m. Southern Hills Career Center on Hamer Road, Georgetown, Ohio. Contact:

Tytun 2014

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