Tuesday, August 2, 2022



Will farmers finish before frost? This flue-cured tobacco looked good after rains began falling in July. But now it faces the threat of early frost. Photo by J.M. Moore.


Virginia: A good rain on the last night of July got August off to a good start for flue-cured growers in the Virginia Southside. “The crop is looking up,” says Stephen Barts, Pittsylvania County Extension agent. “The rain had been spotty before, but now we have the makings of a good crop if Mother Nature continues to cooperate.” But the crop is late and it is going to be a race against the clock. "Only a few of our farmers have pulled any leaf, and the calendar is catching up with us."

North Carolina: The flue-cured crop here is quite late. “I would say only about 10 to 15 percent has been harvested through August 1,” says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. “That is rare. Some fields in the far east of the state have yet to be harvested a single time.” It’s a situation where an early frost could cause a real problem for the upper stalk. “If ever there was a year when we needed a late frost, this is it.”

South Carolina: Conditions remained mostly good, according to USDA-NASS. "An abundance of rain in the Pee Dee region last week really helped tobacco take off." Topping neared completion and harvest continued in line with historic progress. 

Georgia--Topping was finished in most areas by July 25 as harvest progressed. About 29 percent of the crop had been harvested by August 1. Scattered showers helped maintain adequate soil moisture levels.


Kentucky: The rains and flooding that struck Eastern Kentucky damaged some burley. But the amount was not great because that is not a major tobacco-producing area. “I think no more than five percent of the state crop has been lost to flooding, and it may well have been less,” says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. Good rains last week in central Kentucky have had beneficial effects, he added. Overall, he says, the crop appears to have good potential. “I feel pretty optimistic about it, especially in central Kentucky,” he says. "It is a little behind where growers would like to be but we are not worried about early frost yet.” Burley growers have just begun harvest, while cigar tobacco growers are a little farther into it. 

Tennessee: Growers here generally suffered the same month and a half of dry weather as the rest of the Tobacco Belt. But once the rain started falling about two weeks ago, tobacco began to look much better, says Mitchell Richmond, Tennessee Extension tobacco specialist. There have been few field issues so far, he says. Black shank has showed up in a few places, but because growers frequently chose resistant varieties, black shank incidence may end up being lower than normal this season.


Black Patch: Connecticut broadleaf is finding favor with growers who now specialize in burley. Relatively speaking, less Connecticut broadleaf is being grown in the Black Patch (western Kentucky and north central Tennessee), while more is being grown in predominantly burley areas, especially northern Kentucky. It can be grown there just fine, but Bailey warns that a burley-only grower beginning with Connecticut broadleaf will need one piece of equipment he may not have. “It’s necessary to have scaffold wagons to move wrapper tobacco around at harvest time,” he says. “Dark growers have scaffold wagons which allow you to load the tobacco hanging on the stick." But the flat-bed type trailers that many burley growers use won’t do. "They involve putting the tobacco directly on the floor of the trailer, and Connecticut is too fragile for that,” says Bailey. The result can be leaf breakage and bruising.

Other tobacco news…

Crop progress according to USDA-NASS (through July 24-25): GA (flue-cured), 94% topped, 29% harvested; SC (flue), 83% topped, 33% harvested; NC (Flue-cured) 13% harvested; NC (burley) planting completed; KY (burley/dark/wrapper) 60% blooming, 16% topped; TN (burley, dark, wrapper) 72% topped; VA (flue-cured) 25% harvested --Source: Crop and Progress Report, NASS-USDA.

How one farmer is cutting costs in 2022: “The biggest change we made this season is we didn’t irrigate at all,” says flue-cured grower Tom Blair of Pittsylvania County, Va. “You can’t afford to irrigate with $14.12 labor and $5 gas.” In any normal year, Blair would irrigate with two sets of pipe and sprinklers. His tobacco suffered stress during the dry period but is looking much better now. “When I was young, the more you put into a tobacco crop, the more you got out of it,” Blair says. “Now you can’t put more into a crop than you can reasonably expect to get from it.”

Strategy for controlling suckers in a hot year: Norman Harrell, County Extension Director in Wilson County, N.C., has these recently shared these thoughts on how to control suckers in flue-cured in a season like this one.
  • Contact Fatty Alcohols—“With the increased cost of contacts, I would generally prefer a systemic or contact local systemic product at this point if possible. Remember, do not apply contacts when temperatures are above 90 degrees F. Contacts are rain fast when dry.” 
  • Flumetralin (Prime+, Drexalin Plus, and others)—“This is probably going to be the go-to product at this time for many tobacco fields. Flumetralin is a contact local systemic, which means it inhibits cell division. But it does not translocate within the plant, so coverage is important. Tips generally need to be eight inches long. Do not apply this product when the temp-erature exceeds 95 degrees F or if the tobacco is flopped. Flumetralin needs to be on two hours for rainfastness. 
  • MH–“If the tips are large enough (generally it is preferred to be >15"), MH uptake would give good control in a tender, fast-growing tobacco. Good uptake would lead to excellent sucker control. MH will generally only last four to six weeks, so control could run out by the end of the season. Residues are a concern: MH residues can be reduced by applying immediately after first harvest. MH is considered rainfast after 10 to 12 hours of ap-plication.”
  • Bottom line: Considering today's environment, it is generally preferred to apply contacts, followed by Flumetralin and then apply MH after first harvest. 

Black shank is getting severe on flue-cured in some places in NC, says Vann. But it could have been worse. “I am very glad we now have some good new black-shank resistant varieties,” he says. “If we didn’t have that host resistance, I hate to think where we would be now.” Among the most planted varieties have been NC 1226, GL 365 and CC 145. “But this resistance is not a silver bullet. If you expect black shank, follow the standard control practices," Vann says.

Tobacco Tours in Tennessee and KentuckyThe Northeast Tennessee Tobacco Field Day will be held in Greeneville TN on August 9 from 8 AM to lunch time. For more information, contact Mitch Richmond at mrichmo8@utk.edu. Tour guests will have time to drive to Lexington KY after this event to attend the Kentucky Bluegrass Burley Tour August 10 at 9 AM at the Spindletop Research Farm in Lexington KY. For more information, contact Bob Pearce at rpearce@ uky.edu. Afterward, there will be time to drive to Murray KY to attend the Kentucky Dark Tobacco Twilight Tour 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.


Top quality leaf has vanished from world markets, says Rick Smith, president of Independent Leaf in Wilson, N.C. “There is some useable leaf for sale but none of the best quality. The situation bodes well for the American crop that is coming to market now.” His advice to growers: “If you have quality leaf in the field, make sure you keep that quality high.”

Zimbabwe sales nearly over. The auction season, which started in March, officially closed last Wednesday, with more than 180 million kilograms having been sold at an average price of $3.04 dollars per kg. There will be an unusual number of clean-up sales since much of the Zimbabwean crop was very late being harvested.

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