A migrant crew tops flue-cured near Winston-Salem, N.C.
Photo by Chris Bickers.
A VARIABLE CROP THAT'S RUNNING LATE
An uneven crop made it difficult for N.C. flue-cured growers to decide when to top, sucker, and spray, and now it is confusing harvesting decisions. "Nevertheless, harvest is well under way," says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "A great many of our growers have harvested their lugs and cutters. But there are still a few fields that have not come into full flower in the western part of the Old Belt."
The cool early season and intense July heat lead to lateness in most of the N.C. flue-cured crop, says Vann. "It is fairly green in places. Take care in harvesting ripe leaf so you can put good quality on the floor." It is much to be hoped that the first frost is not too early, but that seems to be the hope every season these days.
The crop is coming off fast in South Carolina, says Matthew Inman, S.C. Extension specialist. "Sixty to seventy percent has been harvested, and farmers are struggling to stay ahead. I have seen one farmer harvest once, and then was forced to strip the rest in one pass." Inman suspects that the tobacco in his state will weigh a little light this year. "A lot of our tobacco has weak root systems," he says.
A late note: TFN may have underplayed the damage in S.C. from Hurricane Isaias in its last number. (See "S.C. escapes damage from Isaias," August I 2020.) "We here in Horry County had a lot of damage--leaf blown off the stalk and blown down and three to four inches of rain," wrote farmer Dwight Stevens of Loris.
A good burley crop appears to be developing in Kentucky, says Bob Pearce, Extension tobacco specialist. "We have a fair-looking crop just now. We have some really good-looking fields but in other areas not so good. The variability is as high as I can remember. But on average it is a good crop."
Harvest has started in Kentucky, says Pearce, and not just by a few here and there. "Some tobacco is going to the barn." Still, it is a little behind at this point. "Almost all of our tobacco was planted a little late because of the cool wet spring." From here on, Pearce urges growers to stay aware of curing conditions. "Get your leaf to cure up to its potential," he says.
USDA says: Production down 20 percent: All tobacco production in the United States is forecast at 372.3 million pounds, down 20 percent from 2019, according to USDA's August Crop Production report. Both flue-cured and burley are projected down by double-digit percentage points, as is fire-cured. The small Southern Maryland crop is down a whopping 65 percent. Dark air-cured and Pennsylvania seedleaf are roughly the same. The drop in estimated production is due almost entirely to reduced plantings: Yields for most types are comparable to last season.
Projections by type--Flue-cured: 224.2 million pounds, down 24 percent. Burley: 77.3 million pounds, down 16 percent. Fire-cured: 39.1 million pounds, down 13 percent. Dark air cured: 24.6 million pounds, no change. Southern Maryland belt: 800,000 pounds, down 65 percent. Pennsylvania seedleaf: 5.52 million pounds, no change. United States: 372.3 million pounds, down 20 percent.
Auctions begin next week: Two auction warehouses plan to hold opening sales on August 26. They are Horizon Ltd., 1723 Goldsboro St. So., Wilson, N.C. (Contact Kenneth Kelly at 252 292 8822) and American Tobacco Exchange, 2101 Miller Rd., Wilson, NC. (Contact auction manager Tommy Faulkner at 910 58 5 2708.) Two more expect to announce open-ing dates soon. They are Old Belt Tobacco Sales, 1395 Old Belt Way, Rural Hall, N.C. (Contact Dennis White at 336 416 6262 or the warehouse switchboard at 336 969 6891) and Coastal Piedmont Auction, 1291 Johnston Parkway, Kenly, N.C. (Contact Mickey Pegram at 270 932 1830, Roger Stanley at 919 628 9075 or the office at 919 284 0504.)