Monday, October 22, 2018


Too much rain in September robbed Kentucky burley of much of its production capacity.

With two record-setting hurricanes wreaking havoc on eastern North Carolina flue-cured and exceptional rains in Kentucky in September, it was a discouraging ending indeed for much of the Tobacco Belt. Among the types:
NORTH CAROLINA--There is still some disagreement about the loss from Hurricanes Florence and Michael, but 100 to 110 million pounds seems to be a realistic estimate. Almost all of that came in the Eastern Belt and most was the result of Florence. But Michael had more of an effect in the Old Belt, where some flue-cured is still being harvested as fast as growers can get it out. "On late-planted tobacco, we saw some late-planted harvested just once, then all the rest was stripped," says Dennis White, owner of the Old Belt Tobacco Sales, which operates a warehouse near Winston-Salem. He is still getting good sales at this warehouse, and all leaf offered has found a home. But the character of the leaf offered now has definitely changed. "Now it is mostly on the H side. H5K is a grade we see a lot." The price has not gone up substan-tially since the hurri-canes, White says. "It falls in the $1.50 to $1.65 range." The practical top has been around $1.85. But even though demand wasn't extremely strong before the weather crisis, one wonders if all orders will be met. 
VIRGINIA -- Excessive rain occurred in late August and continued in the form of storms in September and October "Assuming we were heading toward a 50- to 52-million-pound flue-crop crop in Virginia, I would guess that we lost 10 to 12 percent of that total," says David Reed, Extension tobacco agronomist. "In the eastern area, the loss is probably in the area of five percent, but might have approached 15 to 20 percent in some areas of Pittsylvania and Halifax Counties." A few growers made their contracted pounds, but most will fall short, Reed says.

SOUTH CAROLINA--Very little tobacco remained in the field in South Carolina when Florence blew through. Area Extension agronomy agent William Hardee estimated for Tobacco Farmer Newsletter earlier that 200 to 400 acres still had leaf to be harvested at that time, almost all of it tip leaf. Overripening ensued and he feared none of it was saved (see TFN, October I, 2018).
KENTUCKY--The burley crop in Kentucky took a significant hit from the rains in September, says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. "Statewide. I would estimate losses of 20 to 30 percent. In the bluegrass region, the losses may have been up to 40 percent in the bluegrass region." He thinks burley production for Kentucky lost 20 to 30 million pounds and might be down to a total of around 80 million pounds."
TENNESSEE--Burley in Tennessee was not seriously affected by the rains that struck Kentucky late in the season. "There was a small percentage affected. maybe five percent," says Eric Walker, Tennessee Extension tobacco specialist. "Overall, the crop looks pretty good. A small percentage of the tobacco was hit late with significant foliar leaf spot diseases, mainly frogeye leaf spot and some target spot. Rather than the weather, other factors have significantly reduced the size of the burley crop this year. I expect acreage to be down 35-40 percent from last year, and that may be a little conservative. Estimates of pounds are always hard, but I think we will have somewhere around 12 million pounds."
OHIO--Uncharacteristic rains in August, Sep-tember and the first half of October left burley tobacco in a "mess" in Southern Ohio. There is still crop in the field. Some farms in Adams County reported around 18 inches of late-season rain, says David Dugan, Ohio Extension Educator. "Several acres were under water as result of heavy rains over the Labor Day weekend.  Some producers harvested less than half of their crop as a result. The Gallia County area is probably 60-70 percent harvested--the rest was lost. The quality of what was harvested was impacted, but I am not sure to what extent. I do not have a good estimate for pounds but would think Ohio is looking at a minimum of a 50 percent loss."

BLACK PATCH--The dark-producing area of western Kentucky and Tennessee perhaps had the best fortune of any of the states in September and October. It avoided the storms that damaged the crop in the bluegrass area. "We still have a good crop," says Andy Bailey, Extension dark tobacco specialist. "There is still maybe 10 percent of the dark fired crop to be harvested yet." He thinks there will be around 56 million pounds of dark fired and around 19 million pounds of dark air cured.

Saturday, October 6, 2018


Three days of Hurricane Florence turned the promising tobacco on the left into the marginally salvageable mess on the right. Gusting winds were the main problem as they whipped leaves up and down causing premature ripening. These pictures were taken in the same field in Wilson County, N.C.
Photos courtesy of Norman Harrell, Wilson Cooperative Extension Service.

NORTH CAROLINA--"Tobacco harvest is over, and not in the good way," says Don Nicholson, N.C. Department of Agriculture regional agronomist who covers the counties around Raleigh, Smithfield and Wilson. In Duplin County, "All the tobacco that is still in the field is damaged severely and no good, says Blake Sandlin, county Extension agent. In Franklin County, flue-cured is now showing the signs of hurricane damage. "The tips arequickly turning orange and drying up," says Charles Mitchell, Extension agent. "We are experiencing barn rot and brown stems. Decisions are currently being made whether to continue harvesting or stop." Many Franklin County growers had 50 percent of their crop remaining in the field prior to Florence. In Craven County, unharvested tob-acco and corn left in fields were badly damaged, says Mike Carroll, county Extension agent. "(It is) unlikely to be harvested simply due to excessively wet soils and rapid decay of leaf/kernels."

SOUTH CAROLINA--The area north and west of Myrtle Beach, S.C., where most of the state's tobacco is grown, was one of the hardest hit spots in the state during Florence. Fortunately, very little tobacco remained in the field at the time. "Only about 200 to 400 acres still had leaf to be harvested," says William Hardee, S.C. area Extension agronomy agent for Horry and Marion Counties. "All of that suffered from beating by 70 to 80 mph wind gusts and 18 to 23 inches of rain. This triggered a plant response that caused leaf to overripen and turn yellow, then brown. "Some of it might have been salvageable, but then we had to wait for soils to dry so we could get back into the field. I am afraid all the tobacco left after the storm will turn out to be a complete loss." There were some farmers that lost a few barns of tobacco when the power went out as well. Intense autumn storms are becoming a way of life in the Pee Dee, says Hardee. "We have had this kind of weather three of the last four years."

KENTUCKY--They weren't connected with Florence, but near constant rains last month wreaked havoc on the burley crop in Central Kentucky and some other parts of the state. "It rained nearly every day during the last full week of September," says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. "Stalled fronts allowed wave after wave of rain to come over
Bacterial leaf drop took its toll on Kentucky burley in September.
us." Among other things, the rain has led to a significant problem with bacterial leaf drop. "Some fields have lost more than 50 percent of their leaves," says Pearce. He says with all the rain-related losses, the final volume for the Kentucky burley crop may be 25 to 30 percent below the USDA September estimate.

TENNESSEE--At least 80 percent of the East Tennessee crop has been harvested, and most of that should be harvested very soon. This area was not impacted by Hurricane Florence, but there has been plenty of rain, says Don Fowlkes, agronomist for the Burley Stabilization Corporation. "We have had a few fields that have had some bacterial leaf drop and some leaves have dropped off. But a good yield is still a possibility"...Good news from the curing barn: "The industry has been promoting red color in cured burley for several years," says Fowlkes. "From what I have seen, 2018 may be one of the redder curing crops we have had."

BLACK PATCH--The dark crop in the Kentucky and Tennessee is the best in several years, says Andy Bailey, Extension dark tobacco specialist for the two states. At least 75 percent of Kentucky-Tennessee dark fired has been harvested, while perhaps 90 percent of dark air-cured is out of the field. Production? At this point, Bailey estimates 56 million pounds of dark fired and 18 to 19 million pounds of dark air-cured, or maybe a bit more... Bailey reports that there has been an outbreak in dark tobacco of flea beetles in the last few weeks, which is very late in the season. Some of them reached the threshold for treatment. "I can never remember a threshold situation late in the season if imidacloprid had been used on transplants," Bailey says. Some farmers made foliar applications with Admire Pro, but the results weren't great, he says. Others applied Orthene, again without much success. Carbaryl and lannate were other control choices.  In many cases it took two applications to control the flea beetles present at these high levels, he says.

How much remains to be harvested? According to USDA, also of October 1, nine percent of Virginia flue-cured was still to be harvested, compared to 14 percent of North Carolina flue-cured. Harvest in South Carolina and Georgia is substantially complete. Eighteen percent ofKentucky burley was still in the field, said USDA, compared to 10 percent in Tennessee and 42 percent in North Carolina.

In other tobacco-related news:

Cooperative CEO out: Robert B. Fulford Jr. has left the position of Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Tobacco Cooperative., which he took just last February. He will be replaced temporarily by Oscar House, USTC's Senior Vice President of Manufacturing. House will serve as Interim CEO and President while a search is conducted for Fulford's successor. Note: The cooperative has had two CEO's in the last two years. Stuart Thompson left in the summer of 2017.

New name for Alliance One--but not for its tobacco segment. The leaf dealer Alliance One Inc. has adopted a new name--Pyxus International Inc.--that it has attached to all of its segments except for its tobacco division, which will continue to be called Alliance One.


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