Monday, October 25, 2021


Heat and humidity did a number on the flue-cured tobacco grown at the Tobacco Research Station in Oxford, N.C., this year, says Carl Watson, the station’s ag research manager. Watson (foreground) brought leaf to Raleigh for the the N.C. State Fair Tobacco Looping Contest on October 15 . It looked a little ragged. “The ends of the tip leaves were hard to get ripe and were difficult to sell,” says Watson. As one observer noted, the flue-cured had in effect gotten “cooked in the field.” But the yield wasn’t affected, at least not at the station, and a yield of as much as 3,000 pounds per acre may be obtained. The station is located about 40 miles north of Raleigh. Photo by Christopher Bickers.


NORTH CAROLINA—There was a little flue-cured left at the end of last week, almost all of it in the western Piedmont of western N.C. While it was not a large amount, for some growers it could be the difference between profit and loss for this season. The growers will have a much better chance of success if frost will hold off for about seven more days, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. Maybe it will: There’s been no frost at all in North Carolina so far. “To date, we seem to have dodged that bullet,” he says. Vann had earlier estimated that the statewide average yield would fall in the range of 2,000 to 2,100 pounds per acre. “I see no reason to change it,” he says. USDA’s projection of 120,000 harvested acres still seems credible, so flue-cured production for the state might total 240,000 pounds, about what USDA projected in September and much more than was produced in 2020. Late in the season, there has been tremendous yield loss in the east, and some yield has been lost in the Piedmont because of drought. But the overall all yield will still be better than last year.

VIRGINIA—Flue-cured here still lagged somewhat behind schedule, and it was thought that it might take into early November to get this type harvested. The problem was too much rain combined with windstorms that blew over plants. Much of the crop had to be stood back up once, and some twice…To make matters worse, this has been an expensive crop to produce: Among many other things, farmers had to find additional labor, and fuel cost a lot…The crop was better in the eastern part of the tobacco area—Mecklenburg, Lunenburg and Dinwiddie counties—than in the west—Pittsylvania and Halifax counties, says one source. “We could still have a good crop but we need the frost to hold off,” he says…One odd note: There was a drastic difference in the distribution of rainfall during the season. “Some farms got 24 to 30 inches, while others got less than four,” the source says.



KENTUCKY--There might be a little burley left in Kentucky that has yet to be harvested but the vast majority of the state’s crop has been cut and barned, says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. “There are always a few stragglers.” Pearce expects the yields will be average and the color good. “I anticipate a quality burley crop.” But he hasn’t seen any stripped tobacco from this crop. The curing season has gone pretty well. “There were a couple of periods of wet weather that led to a touch of mold on some early cut tobacco, particularly on Connecticut broadleaf.” Other than that, the curing season has been mostly favorable. No killing frost yet: “A few areas experienced a very light frost on the 17th,” says Pearce. “I saw some on a few roof tops but did not see any on the ground. There was no impact on plants still growing at that time.”

TENNESSEE--In the east, heavy rain slowed harvest last week. As of Oct. 17 , the USDA estimated that a small portion of the tobacco crops still needs to be harvest-ed, perhaps four percent. It may in fact be completely harvested by now. 

NORTH CAROLINA--Burley growers managed to make up some time by harvesting furiously, and by October 17, 85 percent of the crop was cut compared to 72 percent two weeks before. But their crop was still vulnerable to frost, which most years comes relatively early to farms here, many of which are in mountain locations. No killing frosts had been reported yet.


Dark fire-cured in the Black Patch will probably yield at least 3,300 pounds power acre and probably more, while dark air-cured will probably yield closer to 3,000 pounds. “We have a good dark crop out there,” says Andy Bailey, Kentucky-Tennessee Extension dark specialist. “It might not be the best we have ever had but it is certainly the best in the past six years.” Perhaps one percent of the dark tobacco in the Black Patch is still in the field, he says. “Harvest will be finished soon.”


Connecticut and Pennsylvania cigar wrapper types in Kentucky and Tennessee were harvested six weeks ago. “It is all cured now and the Connecticut broadleaf type has been sold,” says Bailey. “Many growers have crops that averaged $4.50 to $5.00 per pound. I have heard of one crop that averaged $5.21 per pound” Pennsylvania 41 marketing doesn’t start till later…Connecticut yields were around 2,000 pounds per acre, he says, while 2,200 to 2,300 pound yields are expected for the Pennsylvania type.

Friday, October 8, 2021



Buyers pore over flue-cured leaf at Old Belt Tobacco Sales in Rural Hall, N.C. File photo by Christopher Bickers.



NORTH CAROLINA--A late first frost date would really help Piedmont growers. Frost can reasonably be expected in 15 or 20 days, and that could be a real problem. “This crop is definitely late—some farmers have just made their first pulling,” says Dennis White of the Old Belt Tobacco Sales auction near Winston-Salem. “It is coming off fast, and farmers are having a hard time getting enough barn space to cure it.” If the top crop is damaged by frost or freezing, it will be a shame. “The leaf that is still out there has plenty of body and is of good color, and it will be overripe,” he says... The Old Belt warehouse held its fifth sale yesterday (October 5). White says they are going well. “We are selling over a half million pounds per sale, and our price has been close to the contract price. The price and quality of lugs offered here was good while that of cutters and leaf were very good, says White.

VIRGINIA—As in the N.C Piedmont, the Virginia flue-cured crop is way behind schedule and may take till early November to harvest completely. Too much rain was the main cause, but windstorms that blew over plants were also a problem. USDA estimated that 89 percent of the flue-cured in the state had been harvested by October 3. The quality seemed good at that point. “We could have a good crop if the frost will just hold off,” says one observer. 

SOUTH CAROLINA--It’s all over for the 2021 crop except for selling it. And this crop turned out well: Even though it received more or less the same weather as eastern North Carolina, the crop fared much better. The state average yield was higher than in either of the past two years. William Hardee, S.C. area Extension agronomy agent, thinks the number may fall in the area of around 2,500 pounds per acre. Which would compare very favorably to the yields of the two previous seasons, neither of whose yield reached 2,000 pounds per acre…There were drought conditions in April and May which slowed crop development, followed by a wet June, says Hardee. Tropical Storm Elsa came at the beginning of July and had just enough wind to initiate a ripening response in the plant and put growers a little behind in harvesting. “But everyone is finished now. We completed harvest in the second or third week of September. By the beginning of October, the crop had been taken out and now the farmers just have to finish marketing it"A change in S.C. tobacco Extension: TFN has learned that Extension tobacco specialist Matthew Inman has left to take a position in industry. No word yet on whether the position will be re-filled.

(GEORGIA and FLORIDA are done.)


KENTUCKY-- Burley growers made strong headway in the week ended October 3 as the weather was conducive, says USDA’s Crop Progress and Condition Report. But that progress was stymied over the weekend because of widespread precipitation. Housed tobacco is in mostly good condition. House burn was reported as one percent moderate, eight percent light and 91 percent with none.

TENNESSEE--Burley harvest is nearly finished, says Mitchell Richmond, Tennessee Extension tobacco specialist. Rain has caused some delays in cutting, but Richmond thinks the tobacco test plots at the Highland Rim Research Center in Springfield, Tn., will be completely harvested by Wednesday. “Maybe by a week from today harvest will be complete on the crop as a whole.” This won’t go down as a bumper crop, but the yield is good. Richmond doesn’t have an estimate of burley production in the state yet but still thinks the USDA figure of 4.5 million pounds is credible. The rain cut back a little the past week ending October 3 but this has been a very rainy season. Early rains had a negative impact on growth. “But since June 15 the rain has been more or less average,” he says.

NORTH CAROLINA--As of October 3, only 72 percent of the burley had been harvested. Farmers were living on borrowed time: The predicted first frost date in Asheville was September 22. It hasn't come yet but farmers are cutting and barning as fast as they can.