Wednesday, March 31, 2021



Plants began going into the ground on March 25 on the farm of Stanley Corbett and his sons near Lake Park in south Georgia. It is very close to the Georgia-Florida boundary.

Transplanting began about two weeks ago in Florida and last week in Georgia, says J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco specialist. But it is still on a small scale. “The work will get going in earnest the week after Easter,” he says.

The weather is warm, the soil is moist and there is a beautiful supply of plants in Florida and Georgia, so farmers should be going full bore soon, he adds. “We should have enough plants to plant all our acres. Commercial plant growers seem to have done a good job.” 

Moore expects increased acreage in the two states compared to last year as a result of increased contract availability from some companies. “It seemed that most growers got as many contracts as they were looking for,” he says.

There may be one problem during transplanting: “We had a lot of rain during or after fumigating,” Moore says. “There’s a danger that the fumigant might be trapped in the beds as the rain sealed the tops or filled air pockets in the soil.” To avoid this, lightly cultivate the top of the bed before transplanting to provide for trapped fumigant to escape as the bed dries. But be careful not to pull down the beds completely and bring in untreated soil from the row middles when rebedding.  Try to slightly pull down the bed without contaminating the area for transplanting.

Not all Deep South growers are convinced they should apply a foliar spray of Actigard to plants in the greenhouse seven days prior to transplanting as the first step in tomato spotted wilt control, but Moore votes yes. “There is a little problem of plants taking off in the field with Actigard, but the increased spotted wilt control you get is worth it.”

At the other end of the Tobacco Belt, tobacco farmers in Kentucky have made good progress on seeding greenhouses and should be finished by the end of this week if not sooner. “Stands in the greenhouse are good, with the biggest plants less than the size of a dime,” says Robert Pearce, Extension Tobacco Specialist.

Contracted burley acreage appears about equal to last year and may in fact be a little higher than last year, Pearce says.

There are no new burley varieties for this season, but KT 219 is entering only its second year of field use. It has given good yields in field trials, but its main selling point is early maturity. “You could use it to spread out harvest for maximum labor utilization,” says Pearce.
If there has been any formal announcement that China is contracting tobacco from the United States this year, I haven’t seen it. But all kinds of individuals in the industry think purchases of around 80 million pounds by the PRC are all but a done deal. I assume that all of it will be flue-cured and that members of the USTC coop in Raleigh will be producing most of it. But that is speculation only.

An increase in flue-cured production seems likely. There have been estimates of 300 million pounds or more compared to roughly 235 million pounds in 2020. One would expect a greater demand for “Lemon” leaf than in recent years. Already, one warehouseman in N.C. told TFN (December I 2020 issue) that in last year’s sale—i.e., before the improvement in China sales prospects—he saw strong demand for lemon grades.

Priority for 2021: Wipe out weed seed. “There appear to be some big moves on the tobacco buying front and we need to help make these things happen as best we can,” says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. “We don’t want our leaf rejected by foreign customers because it is found to contain noxious weed seeds.” Certainly, the term noxious is relative. “But those end users don’t want to import things like crabgrass and pigweed,” Vann says. “Reducing weed seed has to be a high priority, and it will only be accomplished with exceptional weed control.” Watch for more on this subject in future issues of TFN.
Welcome to the March II, 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.
Your copy should address 3 key questions: Who am I writing for? (Audience) Why should they care B
Your copy should address 3 key questions: Who am I writing for? (Audience) Why should they care? (Be
You can still get a copy of The Bluegrass and Beyond, Christopher Bickers' account of the historic basis of the modern burley industry. Send $20 plus $8 shipping and han-dling to No. 126, 7413 Six Forks Road, Raleigh, N.C. 27615. Make check to Chris-topher Bickers. Have ques-tions? Call 919 789 4631 or email

PS: And if you have already ordered a copy and you haven't received it, call the number above. We will send another.

Thursday, March 11, 2021



Burley leaf gets towed away from a field in the Western North Carolina mountains last fall. But the grower isn't planning on letting his burley get towed away permanently. See story below. Photo courtesy of NCDA.

Burley farms are down to one in one mountain county…but the one farmer there plans to stay in tobacco indefinitely. There used to be a significant number of burley growers in Mitchell County, N.C., in the mountains close to Tennessee. But this season there is only one, Stonbach Farms owner Conner Stonbach. That would seem to suggest burley will disappear before too long, but Conner who is in his 20s, says don’t count on it. He plans to maintain burley tobacco in the family tradition and heritage. “It is important to our past and should always be kept in our future. Tobacco is a huge source of pride and historical significance for us, because not only was it what this state was built on, but it changed the way of life for many families, including mine.” True, tobacco can be a tough industry to suceed in. “It relies heavily on the market and all comes down to the 30 or 60 minutes,” he says. “But seeing buyers come through and purchase your product is the best feeling in the world.”
Burley auctions ended this week with cleanup sales in the two warehouses of Danville, Ky., and Lexington, Ky. Jerry Rankin, owner of Farmers Tobacco Warehouse in Danville, said that for the season, most of the crop sold for a strong $1.80 to $1.85. He estimated that volume for the total burley crop (all states) will be at least 42 million pounds and perhaps as much as 45 million pounds, which is roughly what he foresaw a month ago. The quality was very good. “On my farm, the quality was the best in three or four years,” he said. The difference from recent markets was there just wasn’t as much low quality leaf as you would expect, so that even though there was less good leaf than you would expect, it still made up a large portion of the total…Big Burley Warehouse in Lexington, Ky., was the other burley warehouse which closed this week.
An early production projection: Flue-cured production in the U.S. in 2021 should rebound to over 300 million pounds, said Blake Brown, N.C. Extension economist. That is up from NASS’ estimate of 234 million pounds in the season just ended. An amount contracted to the Chinese in the range of 85 million pounds figures into that. But note that contracts with Chinese have to be approved back at home and could fall through. But an official extremely familiar with selling tobacco to China believes 95 percent of these contracts should eventually go into effect.
You can still apply for the Quality Loss Adjustment Program: If you missed the March 5 deadline to apply for the USDA’s Quality Loss Adjustment (QLA) Program, there is still time. Because of storms and some clarifications to program rules, a deadline extension to August 9 was considered appropriate. QLA assists producers who suffered crop quality losses due to qualifying 2018 and 2019 natural disasters. “Because of recent winter storms and some program updates, we want to provide five additional weeks for producers to apply for the program,” said Zach Ducheneaux, administrator of the Farm Service Agency. “FSA began accepting applications on January 6 and has received more than 8,100 applications so far. Additional information is available at or by calling 877-508-8364.

EU aircraft tariff restrictions down temporarily. The European Union and the United States have agreed to suspend for four months tariffs related to a long-running World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute over tariffs on aircraft. The suspension will cover all tariffs both on aircraft as well as on non-aircraft products, which include tobacco and sweet potatoes, and will become effective as soon as the internal procedures on both sides are completed.

Price picture brightens for dark: A major buyer of dark air-cured and dark fire cured tobacco in Kentucky and Tennessee has revealed its contract prices for the coming crop. Fire-cured, which is more expensive to produce, will be contracted for a top price of $2.82, while dark air-cured will be contracted for a top price of $2.50. Both prices are about five cents above last year.


Global tobacco production has shifted from high-income countries to developing market nations over the past decade. Global plantings are reported to have decreased by 15.7 percent, according to statistics from a recent World Health Organization global report, while in Africa the registered growth is 3.4 percent. Regarding the volume of production, global decline is 13.9 percent, but in Africa, there has 10.6 percent growth. The study also highlights the biggest tobacco growing countries in the continent: Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique.

Among our leading foreign competitors:
  • In Zimbabwe, look for a larger and better quality crop than last season thanks to adequate rainfall so far this season, to the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) of Zimbabwe. The marketing season traditionally starts in March but could be delayed because of coronavirus restrictions. Hopefully, the market disruption will not be as great as last season, when pandemic control methods largely prevented farmers from attending the auction floors in person. But some form of those methods will have to be continued since COVID 19 is a bigger problem now than it was in 2020.

  • In Brazil, the big tobacco-producing state of Rio Grande do Sul is currently marketing its flue-cured, which is its leading type. According to local producers, the crop quality is better than last year.

  • Don’t expect Malawi to abandon tobacco anytime soon. “The country is yet to identify a competitive crop or another best alternative to tobacco,” said Hellings Nasoni of the Malawi Tobacco Commission. “Until we reach that stage--where we shall have an alternative crop--that will be raking in much foreign exchange as tobacco, we will still be relying on tobacco.”
Thanks so much for all the kind comments on our book The Bluegrass and Beyond. I still have a few copies left for anyone interested. To obtain one, send $20 plus $8 shipping and hand-ling to 7413 Six Forks Rd., #126, Raleigh NC 27615. Questions? Call me at 919 789 4631 or email at
Now, let me ask you a question. If you ordered a copy earlier, did you receive it? I ask because I am having a problem of nondelivery, and I am afraid some readers may not have gotten their books. So if you ordered a copy and haven't received it contact me at one of the addresses above and I will get it straight.

Welcome to the March 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.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021


February II 2021

A greenhouse in Kentucky from a past season. File photo courtesy of BTGCA.


Don’t pre-charge your floatbeds with NPK materials, says Mat-thew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. “That action greatly increases the potential for soluble salts injury in newly emerged seedlings,” he says. ”We recommend that the first application of NPK fertilizer be incorporated into the float water about seven to 10 days after trays are floated. Typically, this allows for sufficient seed germination and a small amount of seedling growth just before the influx of fertilizer salts reaches the upper third of the cells in each tray.”

Maintain the temperature in your greenhouses at 68 and 86 degrees F during germination. Once maximum germination is obtained, you can lower the minimum temperature to as low as 55 degrees. Thermometer placement is also important: Having an accurate reading of the air temperature closest to the plant is in your best interest. For more information, go to and find "From the Field - Agronomy Notes: Vol. 5, Num. 1."

There’s reason to fear outbreaks of Pythium in greenhouse plants, says Matthew Inman, South Carolina tobacco Extension specialist. “Be proactive about controlling Pythium,” says Inman, who commented on the disease in the January I issue of TFN. "Terramaster is about the only chemical option." For flue-cured, apply Terramaster three to four weeks after seeding just as the roots emerge from the tray bottoms, according to the label.

A sequential preventive application of Terramaster can be made three weeks after the first treatment, the label says, but no treatment should be made later than eight weeks after seeding.

At least 90 percent of S.C. greenhouses had been seeded as of Friday, says Inman.

Best case, worst case: What is the best outcome we could hope for and the worst outcome we could fear relative to flue-cured contracts? In a presentation on flue-cured outlook on January 25, Blake Brown, N.C. Extension economist, said:
  • The worst case might be if China elects not to resume purchases from the U.S. and the European Union tariff problem is not resolved. Contracted pounds could be expected to decline again.
  • In a middle case, if the EU tariff is not resolved but China resumes purchases and non-EU buyers increase purchases of U.S. tobacco as EU bids tobacco away in other markets, the net effect on contracted pounds could be an increase in contracted pounds.
  • In the best case, if China resumes purchases and the EU tariff situation is resolved, then we could look at a bigger increase in contracted pounds.

How burley found it's place in the modern tobacco industry: "It's great absorptive qualities gave it a special place in tobacco products, and from the time the near mythical Camel cigarette was born of burley, bright and Oriental tobaccos, burley has provided its growers with a dependable source of farm income for centuries." From The Bluegrass and Beyond, a book by Christopher Bickers, editor of TFN, and Billy Yeargin. Copies are still available. To obtain one, send $20 plus $8 shipping and handling to 7413 Six Forks Rd., #126, Raleigh NC 27615. Ques-tions? Call me at 919 789 4631 or email me at chrisbickers@ gmail. com.
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 February II, 2021, issue of Tobacco Farmer Newsletter. The last two issues have been a little behind schedule because of some health issues the editor experienced a month ago. But everything is back on track now. Watch for the March I issue in about a week. By the way, 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.
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
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