Burley harvest is picking up in Kentucky. Photo by Matt Barton, UK agricultural communications.
After weather delays caused by too much rain, harvest is finally beginning in earnest in Kentucky. “For a while there, including last week, it seemed it was rainy and cloudy every day,” says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. “It affected those who were still topping, and it was definitely a detriment to harvesting. Even if you got your tobacco cut, you didn’t want it on the ground if a heavy downpour came along.” But now the forecasts are for good weather this week, so farmers are trying to catch up. “We are behind a little now,” he says.
How far along is harvest across the tobacco belt? The National Agricultural Statistic Services projects that for Burley as of August 22: In Kentucky, 89 percent was blooming, 75 percent had been topped, and with 23 percent of the crop cutting had been harvested. For Flue-cured, harvest in Virginia was 40 percent complete, in North Carolina, 41 percent complete, in South Carolina, 72 percent complete, and in Georgia, 71 percent complete.
The market season is well under way for flue-cured growers, and farmers generally seem happy with the price, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. Whether that will stand up will depend to a great extent on the size of this crop. On August 12, USDA projected that N.C. will produce 240 million pounds this year, up a whopping 30 percent from 2020. That strains all credulity, but Vann says it could happen, especially if China contracted a substantial amount.
Presented with some skepticism, the USDA August Crop Report figures showed production by type with percentage change from a year ago as follows:
North Carolina—240 million pounds, up 30 percent;
Virginia—30 million pounds, up 14;
Georgia--8.4 million pounds, down 4 percent; and
South Carolina—16 million pounds, up 90 percent.
All flue-cured—304.400 million pounds, up 28 percent.
Kentucky—74 million pounds, up 2 percent;
Pennsylvania--7.28 million pounds, up 4 percent;
Tennessee—4.5 million pounds, down 3 percent;
Virginia—612,000 pounds, down 10 percent;
North Carolina—493,000 pounds, down 6 percent.
All US burley—86.885 million pounds, up 2 percent.
Fire-cured--47.6 million pounds, up 26 percent.
Dark air-cured--24.44 million pounds, up 6 percent.
Pennsylvania Seedleaf –5.52 million pounds, no change.
Southern Maryland-- 880,000 pounds, down 4 percent.
And finally...USDA summarized the outlook for the US crop as a whole as follows: "The 2021 United States all tobacco production is forecast at 470 million pounds, up 21 percent from 2020. Area harvested, at 224,100 acres, is down slightly from previous forecast but up 13 percent from last year. Yield for the 2021 crop year is forecast at 2,096 pounds per acre, 130 pounds above last year."
Auctions begin. The Live Auction season starts Wednesday with sales in and around Wilson, N.C. The first sale will begin in the 10 o'clock hour ((Contact Kenneth Kelly at 252 292 8822 for details) at the Horizon Ltd. warehouse at 1723 Goldsboro St., Wilson. Once finished there, buyers will move to the American Tobacco Exchange warehouse at 2101 Miller Rd., also in Wilson. For information about that sale, call Tommy Faulkner at 910 585 2708. After lunch, buyers will drive down the road to the Coastal Piedmont Auction, 1291 Johnston Parkway, Kenly, N.C., to finish the day's marketing. (For information, contact Mickey Pegram at 270 932 1830, Roger Stanley at 919 628 9075 or the office at 919 284 0504)...The last of the sales for this year opens August 31 in Rural Hall, N.C., Old Belt Tobacco Sales, located at 1395 Old Belt Way., will be selling every Tuesday.
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Another “new” tobacco type for the Southeast: Pennsylvania 41 Seedleaf tobacco grows in a research plot on the University of Kentucky Research and Education Center in Princeton, Ky. Type 41 is a relatively short type. Note the taller dark air-cured and burley plants in the rows in the background. Type 41 also has a relatively short season: The seedleaf shown here was harvested earlier this week. Photo courtesy of Andy Bailey, UK.
AUGUST CROP REPORT
REPORTS BY STATE AND TYPE
North Carolina: Gathering is well under way, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. “Most everyone has begun harvesting now, and many are finished doing their first harvest.” As usual, the East is ahead of the Piedmont, but the Piedmont has missed some of the torrential rains that affected development of the Eastern crop. “We may see a quick harvest season this year,” he says…Heavy rains unevenly distributed have lead to wide variations in the Eastern Belt crop. In our early July issue, a farmer north of Wilson complained, “We have a sorry crop of tobacco, the worst that has ever been in eastern North Carolina. It is at least 25 percent short. We got too much rain.” But a week ago, a grower just 10 miles west of the first one told Tobacco Farmer Newsletter, “We have been very fortunate. We missed a lot of those big rains that fell in this area. The crop here looks good: It looks way better than last year at this time. It is a little bit behind normal but not much.”
In Georgia and Florida, the crop is yellowing up quickly, says J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco specialist. “We have had rain almost every day that has interfered with harvest, and harvest is progressing slowly.” Farmers are still working on the lower stalk, he adds. “At this point, there is not a lot of tobacco stored in barns”…It seems much of the lower leaf in this crop has been knocked off except where they were contracted to companies that wanted them delivered, he says. Either mechanical deluggers or defoliators are usually used to knock off the downstalk leaf… Perhaps 15 percent has been harvested in Georgia, says Moore. A little more has been harvested in Florida, but harvest there is not as far along as expected…The quality of the lugs in Georgia/Florida were hurt by excessive and continuing rainfall, but the rest of the crop looks good.
South Carolina: Perhaps 20 percent of the S.C. crop had been harvested as of last Friday. “Everyone in the state has started but some are much farther along than others,” says Matthew Inman, S.C. tobacco Extension specialist. “The crop is coming off fairly quickly. We have had a lot of rainfall in some areas which has interfered with harvest. Now, most farmers who haven’t finished harvesting lugs are trying to wrap it up.”
A Last look at Elsa: There was little lasting effect in S.C. from Hurricane Elsa, says Inman. Georgia tobacco soils—which are mostly sandy--performed very well after the storm, Moore had said earlier. But the rain kept farmers out of the field for harvest for a while afterward. A farmer in north Florida reported 35 mile per hour winds and four to six inch rains. “But the crop grew out of it and should be good at the end of the season.”
Flue production up 22 percent? USDA announced its first projection of flue-cured for 2021 on June 12. The results:
Production at 291 million pounds, up 22 percent from 2020.
Acreage for harvest, projected at 151,500 acres, unchanged from the Acreage report released on June 30, but up 18 percent from last year.
Yield forecast at 1,920 pounds per acre, up 62 pounds from last year.
Kentucky: The condition of the burley crop here has not changed much from the last issue, Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. Some has had plenty or too much rain, while some is too dry. A few farmers are irrigating. “But I would say that overall the crop is slightly above average,” says Pearce. “But it needs more rain to reach its potential.”
Tennessee: The burley crop seems to be looking good, says Mitchell Richmond, Tennessee Extension tobacco specialist. “I think harvest will begin in the next couple of weeks for some of the earlier-set burley. I have heard that some growers have started cutting cigar wrapper types in middle Tennessee.” He’s heard no reports of major disease or pest issues in the last couple of weeks.
Kentucky: About 50 percent of Connecticut broad-leaf in Kentucky and Tennessee has been harvested, says Andy Bailey, Kentucky-Tennessee Extension dark specialist. Winds earlier in the season left some stalks crooked, which is a problem for this type. Also, a strategy for dealing with black shank is going to have to be developed since the Connecticut broadleaf is very susceptible. Layby applications of Ridomil show some promise.
Tennessee: The dark tobacco crop is above average in Robertson County, Tn., north of Nashville, reports Rob Ellis, director of the Highland Rim AgResearch and Education Center in Springfield. “The tobacco in the county--mostly dark fire-cured--looks good. We have enjoyed good rainfall lately except for some farms in the northeast part of the county which could use a drink.” There was so much rain in early may that transplanting was slowed. But now the tobacco that went in after those rains arelooking good.”…Burley was once a major factor in this county, which is just north of Nashville. “But it’s hard to find a burley grower in Robertson County these days,” says Ellis.
Quite a few farmers are experimenting in Robertson County, Tn., with the new cigar type from Connecticut. And the research station as well. “This is the second year we are growing Connecticut broadleaf at the Center,” says Ellis. “Our soils are well-suited to it, but we are still working at the Center on a system of growing it here. We must overcome some more hurdles to produce a product that meets buyer needs.”…There had been talk there might be plantings of Pennsylvania 41 in the county this year. “But so far, I have seen only one field of the type,” says Ellis. The look was definitely not familiar: “The only reason I know that it was Pennsylvania 41 was because someone came up and told me.”
Other tobacco news:
Auctions will begin soon: Flue-cured tobacco auctions will begin later this month. The first opening date that has been announced is August 31 for Old Belt Tobacco Sales in Rural Hall, N.C. As always, changes in crop condition could result in delays. Watch this space for more announcements of opening dates as they become available.
Industry Notes: Zack Wilbanks has been appointed to Inside Sales for Drexel Chemical Company in Memphis, Tn. He will be the contact point for Drexel’s outside sales team’s product-related questions.
TOBACCO EVENTS SUMMER 2021
Kentucky’s Dark Tobacco Twilight Tour will be held August 12 at 5:30 p.m. on the West Farm of Murray State University, 615. Robertson Road No., Murray, Ky.
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