Monday, February 22, 2021



Plants up and growing in the Deep South! The last greenhouse in Georgia was seeded around the February 12 at about the same time that the first clipping of a greenhouse in the state (above) took place. Photo courtesy of University of Georgia/J. Michael Moore.

Sunshine: In North Carolina, it’s recommended that you seed your greenhouse when five consecutive days of good sunlight are predicted. “Cloudy days (in my opinion) were the number one issue we faced in the early part of the greenhouse season in 2020,” says Matthew Vann, Extension tobacco specialist. “There were isolated cases where it created variable growth because of the variable germination. We’re likely to have quicker and more uniform seed germination when sunlight is at its maximum.”
How to manage greenhouse temperature: "Do not let temperatures in the greenhouse climb above 90°F at any time," says Vann. "Cooler greenhouses (<68°F) will slow down or delay germination.” However, once maximum germination is achieved, temperatures can be lowered to 55°F, if desired. "Constant temperatures will also slow down or delay germination,” Vann says. “Thus, fluctuation between 68 and 86°F is critical."
The outlook for burley is not looking so good, but Pat Raines of Seaman, Ohio, plans to grow about the same amount this season as last, assuming contracts are available. "I had my best crop in four years in 2020," Raines says.
There’s been a rush to planting Connecticut broadleaf (CBL) in states other than Connecticut the last two years, but that may slow some in 2021. At least, that is what Extension tobacco specialist Andy Bailey predicts in the dark tobacco-growing areas of Kentucky-Tennessee, where the hopes were high for the type a year ago. CBL may yet have a place in the “Black Patch,” but Bailey is anticipating only about 1,500 acres of CBL this season, half of what was grown there in 2020.
How much tobacco does the trade expect from the U.S. this season? The Universal Leaf projections are usually a good indication. The current one projects a 20.5 percent increase for flue-cured but no change for burley.
Boon for growers? Imperial Tobacco (ITG) plans to place its marketing emphasis over the next five years on traditional cigarettes after several years of emphasizing non-traditional products. “We have developed highly detailed brand and market plans to support this approach and will increase investment behind a focused set of operational levers to strengthen performance and unlock value,” said ITG Chief Executive Stefan Bomhard late in January. Cigarettes contain more leaf than any non-traditional product.
On the other hand, British American Tobacco (BAT) will continue in 2021 its policy of de-emphasizing cigarettes. “BAT’s purpose is to build ‘A Better Tomorrow’ by reducing the health impact of its business,” said Jack Bowles, Chief Executive at BAT earlier this year. That entails: Committing to providing adult consumers with a wide range of enjoyable and less risky products; Continuing to be clear that combustible cigarettes pose serious health risks, and the only way to avoid these risks is not to start or to quit, and Encouraging those who otherwise continue to smoke, to switch completely to scientifically- substantiated, reduced-risk alternatives.

Agronomist appointments: Maythem AL-Amery has been chosen to take the position of Team Leader of the Canadian Tobacco Research Foundation in Tillsonburg, Ontario. He completed his graduate work at the University of Kentucky in Plant and Soil Sciences. He replaces Mitchell Richmond. TFN is informed that Richmond will soon become the Tennessee Extension tobacco specialist stationed in Knoxville, although a formal announcement has not been made.

Copies are still available of  The Bluegrass and Beyond. To obtain  one, send $20, plus $8 
for shipping and 
handling to Bluegrass 
and Beyond, 7413 Six Forks 
Rd., Box Number 126, 
Raleigh NC 27615. 
Questions? Call me 
(Chris Bickers) at 919 789 
4631 or email me at 

Welcome to the February I 2021 issue of Tobacco Farmer Newsletter. If you haven't signed on to receive the newsletter regularly, please email your subscription request to TFN at Include phone number and your affiliation with tobacco, such as farmer, buyer, dealer or Extension agent.
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Monday, February 15, 2021



The DeCloet Canada exhibit at the 2018 Southern Farm Show. Photo taken by Chris Bickers.

I would normally be analyzing here what I saw at the Southern Farm Show, but that’s not going to work since the Show was canceled. So instead, let me share what I have derived so far this winter about machinery purchases or the lack thereof for the coming season. If you have a different opinion, or more to add, let me know.
First, two companies responded to my invitation for information on the equipment they would have featured:
  • DeCloet-Italy has a topping machine whose head is totally managed by a sonar sensor. “[It] automatically detects and catches the height of the flower and cuts it," says the manufacturer. "The operator [never] moves the head, so he will have much more productivity and accuracy." Sorry, I couldn't get a picture for this issue. I will try for one in the future. For more information, call Alessio Scarscelli at +39 338 688 3548.

  • Granville Equipment Co. is promoting its Four Row Hand Harvester, which I wrote about in my January I issue (“Retreat from Full Mechanical Harvest?”) Similar to the old riding harvesters, a machine like this would increase the labor required to harvest flue-cured but would also potentially increase quality, since you would have the opportunity to deliver fewer suckers and riper leaf. Maintenance costs are low compared to mechanical harvesters. For more information, call Randy Watkins at 919 693 7268.

Flue-curing barns? The numbers don't favor new sales. I've been told you can probably get a good re-tooled unit for a third of what it would cost to buy a new one.
Burley? Even though there is a good possibility of a larger crop in 2021, the trend in industry offtake has been steadily downward, so major purchases of equipment are not likely. Especially not barns, since there are many unused ones across the belt. But I have been told there might be a trend toward larger sprayers and larger (or just more) transplanters.
We are competing in a global marketplace, and perhaps now more than ever, most of our competitors have much lower labor costs than we do. But there seem to be a lot of problems with some of them, especially Zimbabwe, where infrastructure failings and an apparent reluctance by some contracting companies to provide adequate financing to the growers has contributed to some falling back from recent production peaks.
Since Zimbabwe has been a major source of tobacco for China, you would think there would be some enthusiasm by the Chinese industry to source some tobacco here. So there may be reason for some optimism that China will return to this market. I am told, but can’t confirm, that there have been negotiations between Chinese manufactures and the USTC cooperative in N.C., with the idea of perhaps moving some or all of the “leftover” orders of U.S. leaf from the 2018 crop that wound up being blocked by the tariff wars. I will keep you posted.
In other tobacco news:
Market season ending: Only about one percent of the Kentucky burley crop remains to be marketed, and that means the U.S. crop should be entirely moved by a week from now. No one is estimating Kentucky burley production at more than 50 million pounds and probably less.
There’s been quite an exodus among in Extension plant pathologists specializing in tobacco. I reported earlier that Chuck Johnson has retired at Virginia Tech. Now, Emily Pfuefer has left the University of Kentucky, and I have been told the N.C. tobacco pathologist is moving to another position also. No word as to who if anyone will replace these three. But I do understand that a new Tennessee Extension tobacco specialist will be appointed shortly. No formal announcement yet as to who it will be.
New insecticide for worms: “Steward,” whose active ingredient is indoxacarb, has recently been registered in tobacco. It is labeled for control of tobacco budwormhornworms and tobacco splitworm and has a unique mode of action in tobacco. “Steward performs similarly to our standard materials for tobacco budworm and hornworms and similarly to imidacloprid (Admire Pro and others) and Assail when applied as foliar treatments for tobacco flea beetle,” says Hannah Burrack, N.C. Extension entomologist. “Steward will give growers additional active ingredients and modes of action for these target pests.”
For flea beetle control, Steward has shown some efficacy against tobacco flea beetle from early season foliar treatments, Burrack adds. “[But] we haven’t been able to generate late season efficacy for tobacco flea beetle in our research station plots.” So if you are hoping to achieve late season flea beetle control, use application methods that ensure excellent coverage, using high volume (50 gpa or more) and drop nozzles.

Copies of The Bluegrass
and Beyond are still
available. To attain one,
send $20, plus $8 shipping
and handling to 7413
Six Forks Rd., #126,
Raleigh NC 27615.
Questions? Call me at
919 789 4631 or email me at 
chrisbickers@ gmail. comRight: A deteriorating burley barn in Jackson County, Ky.
Yo ur copy should address 3 key questions: Who am I writing for? (Audience) Why should th ey care? (Benefit) What do I want them to do here? (Call-tovvvvv-Action)Create a great offer by adding words like
Welcome to the Show Special 2021 issue of Tobacco Farmer Newsletter. If you haven't signed on to receive the newsletter regularly, please email your subscription request to TFN at Include phone number and your affiliation with tobacco, such as farmer, buyer, dealer or Extension agent. Or call Chris Bickers at 919 789 4631.
Your copy should address 3 key questions: Who am I writing for? (Audience) Why should they care?
Your copy should address 3 key questions: Who am I writing for? (Audience) Why should they care Benefi