Friday, October 27, 2017


Contestants at the tobacco-tying contest at the N.C. State Fair show off their stringing ability. The wining team was the " Looping Fools" of Maple Hill (not shown). Team members Sandy and Ken Jones of Maple Hill and Michael Sunday of Holly Ridge looped their stick of tobacco in 51.67 seconds.

The last USDA production estimate for 2017 was issued earlier this month. It included extremely optimistic estimates for flue-cured, burley and the two dark types. But several normally reliable sources have suggested that the projections--especially for Kentucky burley and N.C. flue-cured--may be way too high. Take the USDA projections (following) for what they seem to be worth and I will try to get a more credible report in the next issue of Tobacco Farmer Newsletter about a week from now.

  • North Carolina--374.9 million pounds, up nine percent. 
  • Virginia--49.5 million pounds, up two percent. 
  • Georgia--25 million pounds, down 12 percent. 
  • South Carolina--22.8 million pounds, down seven percent. 
  • All flue cured--472.2 million pounds, up 9.8 per cent.
  • Kentucky--132.3 million pounds, up 23.9 percent. 
  • Tennessee--18 million pounds, up 11.1 percent. 
  • Pennsylvania -- 11.25 million pounds, down 9.8 per cent.
  • Virginia--2.36 million pounds, down 6.1 percent. 
  • North Carolina--1.7 million pounds, down five percent.
  • All burley--165.6 million pounds, up 18.5 percent. 
FIRE-CURED--57.9 million pounds, up 46.5 percent.
DARK AIR-CURED--19.44 million pounds, up 94 percent.
PENNSYLVANIA SEEDLEAF--4 million pounds, up four percent.
SOUTHERN MARYLAND--2.5 million pounds, no change.  
In other tobacco news...
Flue-cured growers and many with a sentimental attachment to the type came to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh on October 13 to celebrate this year's crop. Flue-cured leaf was brought down from the nearby Oxford Research Station to provide the basic material for the fair's annual tobacco-tying contest. As the contestants tied their leaf on strings, several growers reviewed their experiences growing bright tobacco in 2017.

Hustling to finish harvest: Carl Watson, the tobacco research specialist responsible for growing the crop at the Oxford,  research station, said he expected that harvest on the station would continue until the end of thisweek. "That's quite late for us," he said. Several farmers north of the station are still harvesting too. I have seen some of them 'borrowing' barns from neighbors who are finished, to speed things up. But if we can avoid extremely cold weather, I think this crop will all get out of the field." It got dry during harvest, said Watson. "We were having a problem of bruising of the leaves. So, we quit harvesting for a time and watered again."
Good quality: Sam Crews of Oxford, N.C., said poundage was down on his farm. "But it was generally good quality. The top of the stalk looked good. I am sure this crop will fare well in foreign markets."
Lowerstalk short: Thomas Shaw of Henderson, N.C., north of Durham, said his crop was average. "The wet weather early was a problem, but we overcame that." Heat late in the season delayed harvest, and he finished October 11, late for his area. "We are a little short on pounds, due to the weather extremes. The heat early took its toll, leaving us a little short on lower stalk leaf. Then at harvest, some fields were too wet and some too dry.  Selling this crop has been a challenge."
Harvest of the Kentucky burley crop is probably complete by now, says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. "But some of it hasn't been in the barn long." Difficulty obtaining labor slowed harvest on some farms, and tropical storms slowed some others. "Still, we had a favorable stretch of weather to get the last of the crop in, and curing got off to a good start." Curing seems to be going fairly well for the first tobacco that was harvested early. But the later-harvested could face a problem if temperatures turn downward. "An average of 60 to 90 degrees is ideal for curing," says Pearce. "If it is lower, you run the risk of curing green."

Editor's Noter: I hope you have enjoyed the October II issue of Tobacco Farmer Newsletter. If you haven't signed on to receive the newsletter to your email address, or if you need to change an address, please call me at 919-789-4631 or email me at Bickers

Sunday, October 8, 2017


Upper Mtn. Research Station, Laurel Springs NC Recently cut burley wilting
What hurricane? This burley at the Upper Mountain Research Station at Laurel Springs in northwest N.C. was cut and wilting in the field on September 19. (Photo by Stan Biconish.)



NC: Hurricane Irma did little damage to North Carolina burley or flue-cured, even though there was more tobacco still in the field in early September than is normal, said Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "The rains we received were light compared to Georgia and Florida," he said. "We dodged a bullet"...Holdability was an issue in flue-cured resulting from those rains that did fall, along with many days of 90-degree high temperatures. "We have some tobacco struggling to 'hold' in the field," says Vann. "As a result, it is too early to make a prediction of volume. But if anything, it might be a little below average." Note: An early frost could be a disaster for N.C. flue-cured growers this year. "But if it comes around the normal date, I think farmers will be able to get their crop in," Vann said.
VA: Much of the flue-cured crop was still in the field when Irma passed through, but the state was spared the heaviest rains. Now, rain would be welcome. "It's dry--we could use some rain," says Extension agent Lindy Tucker In Lunenburg County in the Piedmont. "[But] tobacco is coming along." USDA estimates that 92 percent of the state's flue-cured tobacco had been harvested by October 1.
GA, FL and SC: Harvest is complete. For more on Irma in Georgia, see below.

KY: There had been an extended late season heat wave but it finally ended on September 27 with the passage of a strong cold front through the area, USDA said. USDA reported that 88 percent of the crop had been harvested and 12 percent had been stripped. Some houseburn was reported.
TN: Temperatures had also been unseasonably warm in much of Tennessee but cooled considerably the last few days of September. No precipitation for over two weeks had resulted in extremely dry conditions. "Very dry weather," reports Extension agent Chris Ramsey in Sullivan County, Tn. USDA estimated 85 percent had been harvested.

NC: Hurricane Irma was not a factor at the Upper Mountain Research Station. Superintendent Tracy Taylor says, "We had some rain--maybe two inches--and there were strong winds, but the tobacco got through it just fine." All the station burley is now hung in barns and appears to have potential for good quality. "And I think the yield will be fine," he says. "We were late getting planted, but the crop caught up and turned out well." He expects it will be graded around Christmas. In Yancey County, Extension agent Stanley Holloway says, "Burley producers are concerned with the less-than-ideal curing conditions resulting in a lot of variegated cured leaf color." USDA estimated 61 percent of the state burley crop was harvested by October 1.
VA: Cutting and barning was proceeding in southwest Virginia. "Harvest progress slowed a bit due to rain from Hurricane Irma," says Kevin Spurlin, agriculture agent in Grayson County. "But effects from the storm itself were minimal."
In other tobacco news...

No dicamba disaster in 2017: There were only eight complaints of dicamba drift damage on tobacco in North Carolina this year, Professor Alan York of North Carolina State University was reported as saying at the Blackland Cotton Field Day in Belhaven, N.C., last month. York suggested that a mandatory buffer might be appropriate around tobacco plantings and said he would support tighter record keeping, including time of day of spraying, wind speed and direction, along with estimated distance to tobacco.  "That will not keep someone from spraying beside a tobacco field if they want to, but perhaps it would make them think twice," he said in Southeast Farm Press
Assessing the hurricane damage: Still no hard numbers of dollar loss by tobacco growers to Hurricane Irma, but Georgia was by far the hardest hit. Georgia Extension tobacco specialist J. Michael Moore provided this report on the effects in his state. "We estimate that we lost 15 percent of the crop in Georgia to the storm in the form of leaves dropped in the field. There will probably be additional losses in the form of lowered quality in the leaves that survived and those in curing barns where power was interrupted.
Irma passed through Georgia on Monday September 11. Many areas reported six to 10 inches of rainfall with wind speeds of 50 to 70 mph. As much as 30 percent of the crop remained in the fields at that time. Harvesting continued until Saturday night. Sunday was breezy, with rain starting late in the afternoon in Tifton. "Generally, from 50 percent to 60 percent of the leaves still on the stalks were blown off, and others were bruised and torn as they whipped in the wind." Some leaf had to be abandoned because it deteriorated rapidly after the rains of Irma. Harvesting was finished by September 27.
It could have been worse: The losses would have been higher except that many farmers had purchased or rented generators to keep their curing barns going. Without these, the barns would have shut off when the electricity went out and the leaf could have suffered damage before it went back on.
Planting restraint urged in Brazil: The tobacco growers association of Brazil urged growers this spring to reduce plantings for the 2017/18 crop if they can. if not, they should plant no more than in the year just ended. Benicio Werner, president of the national organization, AFUBRA, said there is a worldwide decrease in consumption. "We cannot let farmers produce a quantity of tobacco that the market does not absorb," he said in an interview with Radio Gazeta. His recommendation--588.5 thousand tons of all types, including 520 thousand tons of flue-cured, 60 thousand tons of burley and 8.5 thousand tons of common "shed." The volume of the 2016/17 crop has been estimated at 695 thousand tons.
Grower numbers in Zimbabwe nearly triple: The number of growers who have registered to grow tobacco in 2017/18 has risen to 21.331 from 7,131 in 2016/2017, a 199 percent increase, according to the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board.Farmers in Zimbabwe seem to have been satisfied with the average price of $2.97 per kilo that tobacco sold for this season and the 185.6 kgs that they produced and sold.
The demand for Malawian burley in the coming season is 130,000 tons, said the Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) of Malawi in September. For flue-cured, it is 25,000 tons and for dark fire-cured it is 5,000 tons, for a total of 160,000 tons. That would be up from 152,000 tons in the season just ended but still less than the year before. TCC also said that Malawi sold 106,000 tons of tobacco out of the 152,000 produced this year, and it was worth US$212 million. The size of the crop is controlled through a system of registration of farmer intentions and issuance of production quotas.