Thursday, May 20, 2021



Transplanting early in the season near Wilson in the Eastern Belt of North Carolina.


The situation is dire for North Carolina flue-cured growers, and most may not realize how poor the conditions are, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. “We need rain terribly. And it’s predicted that temperatures will exceed 90 degrees over the weekend. It is a real critical period for the crop.” To make matters worse, the air is very dry. “It is like being in a sauna,” says Vann.

Just as this issue was emailed: The National Weather Service has announced that this is the driest spring on record in Raleigh and the third driest on record in Fayetteville. “Raleigh hasn’t been this dry since 1887,” says Vann.
The N.C. Piedmont was way behind on transplanting two weeks ago. It has caught up s0me, but some smaller and medium-sized growers have just stopped until the weather improves, Vann says.

All South Carolina acreage is apparently set, says Matthew Inman, South Carolina tobacco Extension specialist. "The Pee Dee got a little rain last week but is still very dry," says Inman. “Our worst problems are wind and sandblasting.” He is hoping replanting is not needed because as far as he knows, there are no plants left in Georgia, Florida or the Carolinas…Much of the crop is approaching layby, he adds.

Georgians and Floridians invite you for a tour that will be held beginning with a kickoff dinner in Blackshear, Ga., on June 7 and ending June 9 in Live Oak, Fla. For more information, go to https://


Transplanting is well under way for Kentucky burley growers, but how much is actually in the ground is in question. “It might be 25 percent or it might be closer to 50 percent,” says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. “The weather was good the first half of May which would suggest a faster rate of setting. We just had a cool week and there have been reports of slow arrival of labor, so that would suggest the lower rate.” There haven’t been any unusual disease problems except target spot in the plantbeds, he says.

Because of lower temperatures over the past two weeks, growers along the Tennessee/Kentucky Border (near Nashville) have been slow starting planting their burley and dark tobacco, sources tell TFN. That has also been the case in central Kentucky. But if temperatures rise this week, planting should take off.

NASS planting estimates through May 16: Burley--Kentucky: seven percent; Virginia: 18 percent; and N.C. 10 percent. Flue-cured--Virginia: 45 percent; N.C. 83 percent; S.C. 93 percent; Georgia 98 percent, and Florida 100 percent. Virginia fire-cured 24.


Zimbabwe: Through the first month of the 2021 sales season, farmers had sold 90.2 million kilograms at an average price of US$2.66 per kg. That compares to US$2.27 per kg same period last year. There is still considerable hope that Zimbabweans will exceed last year's volume production, which was a record.

FINALLY, THANKS TO EVERYONE who sent such kind comments on my book, THE BLUEGRASS AND BEYOND. I am very glad to hear it is as rewarding to read as it was to write. Say, if you sent in an order and didn't get a book, write to me and I will straighten it out--I have had a problem with delivery of several of the books. Also, if you want to order a copy, send $20 plus $8 shipping and handling to No. 126, 7413 Six Forks Road, Raleigh, N.C. 27615. Make the check to Christopher Bickers.
Your copy should address 3 key questions: Who am I writing for? (Audience) Why should they care B

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Transplanting flue-cured on the farm of Daniel 
Johnson in Pierce County, Ga. earlier this spring.


GEORGIA-FLORIDA: The crop was beautiful till the Saturday before last. “Then the rains started falling,” says J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco specialist. “Many fields got two to 10 inches. Washing and pooling was sometimes a problem, and there were instances of hail damage too.” Moore estimated 99 percent of the crop was planted by May 1. “We did have to do a little replanting, but were able to find adequate plants,” said Moore. “[Now], there are very few plants left in Georgia. I don’t think there are 100 trays of plants left in the state" “After a week of drying conditions, cultivation and fertilization, the crop looks great again”…Florida planters finished transplanting several weeks ago. Growers there received no rain from the April 24 weather front. The crop looks good. 

NORTH CAROLINA: The N.C. Coastal Plain is close to 50 percent planted, said Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist, on April 30. “We’re just kicking off the show in the Piedmont, so plantings have to be less than five percent there. We are in dire need of rain. To be frank, I can’t recall a time in my career when soil moisture conditions were so deficient this early.” Between the return to warm daytime temperatures, low humidity, and a lot of wind, the seedlings are struggling to recover from transplant shock. “My best hope is that we can get a good soaking rain of about an inch or so in the Coastal Plain fairly soon.” VIRGINIA: How much tobacco has been transplanted in the Old Dominion? According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, two percent of the burley, one percent of the dark fire-cured, and five percent of the flue-cured had been transplanted as of May 2. 

SOUTH CAROLINA: Transplanting of tobacco has all but stopped due to low soil moisture., said NASS on May 2. Only 67 percent had reportedly been transplanted by that date. 

KENTUCKY: None of the tobacco in the Black Patch had been set as of Friday, but setting should begin soon. May 1 is usually the target date. “It’s been dry so far this spring, dryer than several years,” says Andy Bailey, Kentucky-Tennessee Extension dark specialist. “Plants look good and there appear to be a good supply”…There are several relatively new tobacco types going into this region this year. The leading one is Connecticut broadleaf: About 3,000 acres was grown here last year. It will be grown again. But plantings will be lower this year, perhaps 1,000 to 1,500 acres. Also, there is a small acreage of a few hundred acres of PA 41 seedleaf. And finally, there is an influx of Southern Maryland tobacco, says Bailey. “We have quite a few Amish farmers relocating here from Pennsylvania here who may be accounting for the Maryland plantings.” 

TENNESSEE: In spite of changes made in the 2021 Crop Insurance regulation, most of the dark and burley tobacco farmers in Tennessee and in neighboring areas of Kentucky near Nashville are still growing tobacco, says Bob Dudney, TFN correspondent stationed in Gallatin, Tn. “Burley producers appear to be all under contract with manufacturers and processors through the beginning of May, and dark air-cured and fire-cured are virtually all under contract.” Some burley growers in the area left tobacco altogether this season, contributing to reduced expected acreage. “Few dark tobacco producers appear to have left this year, and acreage is expected to remain about the same,” he says. “No producers are known to have switched from burley to dark tobacco.” 

 CANADA: In Southern Ontario, the greenhouse season is progressing well, despite the cool and cloudy start, according to the Canadian Tobacco Research Foundation. Overall, percent seed germination and uniformity of seedling stands in most greenhouses appear to be quite good. In some greenhouses, clipping has started already. 

Welcome to the May 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.