Tobacco country weather puts a web blanket on crop reports
According to the USDA’s July 11 Flue-Cured Crop Production Report, total flue-cured tobacco acreage planted was up about 11,000 acres in 2013 from last year. Georgia planted 5,000 additional acres for a total of 15,000, and North Carolina planted an additional 6,000 acres for a total of 170,000. Florida’s tobacco acreage of approximately 1,100 acres stayed the same, and Virginia planted an additional 3,000 acres to bring their total to 23,000.
J. Michael Moore, professor and Extension agronomist, believes the actual numbers varied greatly. “Georgia planted an additional 1,000 acres for a total of 11,000. We did not transplant all the available transplants. Greenhouses that were reseeded in South Carolina did not have demand in North Carolina or Virginia and were transplanted as late as Father’s Day in South Carolina,” he says.
While the crop report notes that South Carolina planted 3,000 fewer acres than last year, to bring their total to 9,000, Dewitt Gooden, Clemson University flue-cured tobacco specialist, disagrees. “I have been told by very reliable sources that our acreage is up 5 to 10 percent from 2012.”
Meanwhile, the USDA released burley statistics on June 28 in their Acreage report. Burley acreage planted was slightly up in 2013 from 101,400 to 102,600 acres. Kentucky increased its acreage by 4,000 acres for a total of 78,000; North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania only slightly increased their burley acreage planted; and Tennessee and Virginia decreased their acreage by 3,000 and 1,000, respectively.
Bob Pearce, Extension tobacco specialist at the University of Kentucky, agrees that Kentucky’s acreage is up from last year but doubts the state made it to 78,000. “That number probably reflects initial planting intentions, but I think the wet June/July weather likely prevented some intended plantings,” he says. “Yield will be below average in Kentucky—maybe reduced by 20 to 25 percent due to the wet weather we have experienced.”
In all states, Moore says tobacco will weight light compared to a normal crop. “The rain leached fertilizer nutrients from the soil, and root systems were severely damaged. Growers who were unable to get into the fields to complete sucker control on a timely basis and to harvest the very lowest leaves are now scrambling to harvest as much of the remaining leaf as time and barn space will allow,” he explains. “The recent high temperatures placed demand for water on the nonexistent root systems that cannot be delivered, resulting in premature yellowing of the remaining leaves on the stalks. While much of the early harvested downstalk tobacco has cured well, after the rains of late June and all of July, reduced-quality leaf is expected at the markets.”