Wednesday, July 20, 2022



The first Extension tobacco tour in South Carolina since 2014 was a big success, as shown here. Photo by J.M. Moore.

Two weeks ago, we were talking about the effects of the “historic drought.” That drought is history now thanks to significant rainfall over almost all the Tobacco Belt.


“In North Carolina, we have places that got six to seven inches of rain in seven days,” says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. “The crop has rebounded thanks to all this moisture. It’s been a blessing.” But there has been one problem. “The tobacco has greened back up. Some growers are delaying harvest as a result.”

The prospects for the U.S. flue-cured crop may well have grown by as much as 50 million pounds thanks to the July rains, says leaf dealer Rick Smith, president of Independent Leaf in Wilson, N.C. “Right now, the crop in the Eastern Belt looks good in the field,” he says. “It may be about two weeks late. Very little has been harvested yet. It will probably be mid-August before harvest really gets rolling.”
South Carolina—Farmers here have continued to receive some much-needed rain and the crop have responded well, says USDA. “The crop is looking much better now for the most part,” says William Hardee, S.C. Extension tobacco specialist. “It’s filling out and appears to have some weight.” Harvesting has begun across the tobacco production area, he says…The turnout was good at the S.C. tobacco tour held on July 12 and 13. “We were overwhelmed by the amount of support and the number of participants,” says Hardee. Among the highlights:
  • Disease resistant variety demonstrations.
  • A demonstration of the Flame Weeder at Baxley Farms, Marion, S.C. “It does a good job controlling weeds especially after layby,” says Hardee.
  •  The Baxley Farmer also demonstrated drip irrigation of tobacco. "The simplicity of the setup and the reusability of certain components may appeal to some growers.”
Georgia--A second consecutive week of scattered rainfall across most of the state helped continue to alleviate drought pressure on tobacco, said USDA. Tobacco fields were looking better as the soil moisture conditions have improved over the past few weeks.

Kentucky--There was some scattered precipitation this past week easing crop stress in some areas, according to NASS. The overall rainfall amount was low and some areas remain very dry. The condition of tobacco continues to be fair to good. Irrigation has sustained some fields.

Tennessee: In the middle part of the state, showers were hit-or-miss, with some areas receiving several inches of rain and others receiving none. In East Tennessee, the rains that fell the previous week continue to bring benefits to both row crops and pastures. But the effects of the recent hot, dry weather are still being felt. 

Burley plantings up? There may have been an increase in burley plantings in middle Tennessee. Keith Allen, FSA Extension director in Macon County, Tn., near Nashville, thinks that based on the number of people in GAP training, there are approximately 100 producers this season in the county, which is enough to produce an increase in the 1,100 acres the county had last year. 

Black Patch: Much of the dark-producing area of western Kentucky and central Tennessee benefited from good rains last week. On many farms, one to two and a half inches fell over a seven-day period. But there remained a few droughty areas that didn’t much precipitation.

“This rain ‘bought’ us a week of irrigation, which we had already done a lot of,” says Andy Bailey, Kentucky-Tennessee Extension dark specialist. “I would estimate that 80 percent of the dark tobacco here has been irrigated (by July 15).” Planting stretched out very late, with the last of the dark going in around July 10, about 2 weeks later than normal. “Everyone appears to have planted the acreage they intended to,” Bailey says. But plant supply was short at the end and may have contributed to some of the late planting.

Wrapper production is definitely down in the Black Patch. “We might be down to one third the acreage of Connecticut broadleaf as we had two years ago,” says Bailey. There is also some Pennsylvania 41 and there would probably be more, but there is more demand for Connecticut broadleaf.

Other tobacco news…

First federal estimate of flue-cured volume: USDA’s estimate of flue-cured production, through July 12: North Carolina 223.2 million pounds, down 11.4%; Georgia 15,200, up 5%; Virginia 29.4 million, down 11.8%; South Carolina 10,8 million pounds, down 21%; U.S. 278.6 million pounds, down 11.1%. Source—Crop Production, July 2022, NASS-USDA. (Estimates of other types won't be revealed till August.)
Crop progress through July 17-18, according to USDA: GA (flue-cured), 90% topped, 14% harvested; SC (flue), 65% topped, 14% harvested; NC (burley) 90% planted; TN (burley, dark, wrapper), 34% topped; KY (burley, dark, wrapper) 34% topped.--Source: Crop and Progress Report, NASS-USDA.
Co-op emerges from bankruptcy: The U.S. Tobacco Cooperative Inc. successfully exited bankruptcy on Thursday, July 14. The announcement follows the federal Bankruptcy Court’s approval of the Cooperative’s Chapter 11 Plan of Reorganization. “Today’s exit from bankruptcy marks the end of more than 17 years of class action lawsuits following the termination of the federal price support program,” said Oscar J. House, USTC chief executive officer. “Our exit allows us to now focus solely on the services and products our Cooperative is known for.”
The supply of leaf among the major exporting countries is very short, says Iqbal Lambat, president & chief executive officer of the Star Agritech International leaf dealer. Very low production of flue-cured and burley in Brazil has placed unusual demand on other producers, he says. Neighboring Argentina now has more demand than supply. Prices there as well as in Zimbabwe have gone up substantially. And as one senior leaf trader told Lambat, “It’s almost a war with people fighting over tobacco procurement.” This could bode well during marketing for uncommitted American leaf.

  • The NC State Tobacco Field Day will be held Tuesday, July 26 starting at 9 AM and lasting till 12 PM at the Cunningham Research Station, 200 Cunningham Rd, Kinston, NC 28501. For more information, contact Matthew Vann ( 
  • The Southern Piedmont (Va.) Annual Field Day will be held on Thursday, July 28. Registration begins at 4:30 PM, dinner at 5 PM, with a tour following of research trials. VDACS Commissioner Joseph Guthrie will speak. Register at ycknwuda.
  • The Kentucky Bluegrass Burley Tour will be held August 10 at a time to be announced at the Spindletop Research Farm in Lexington, Ky. For more information, contact Bob Pearce at
  • The Kentucky Dark Tobacco Twilight Tour will be held August 11 at 5:30 PM at the Murray State University West Farm at Murray, Ky. For more information, contact Andy Bailey at 270 625 1560.  

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