Tobacco Workers Conference brings leaf industry to Savannah, Ga.
More than 500 people whose lives revolve around the growing, harvesting and production of tobacco gathered at Savannah’s Riverfront Hotel Jan. 14-17 to discover the latest information on a wide variety of tobacco topics.
Subjects varied widely in presentations by some of the country’s top experts. Topics were set up in the wider fields of agronomy, agricultural economics, agricultural engineering and entomology and lasted for much of the three days.
In addition, the Tobacco Disease Council presented a black shank symposium and on blue mold. The group joined with the entomology group to hold a symposium on spotted wilt virus. The council concluded on Thursday with a discussion of tobacco diseases.
A popular stop on the first day between sessions was the alcove of the ballroom, where 15 poster presentations were displayed. Topics ranged from MH-free sucker control programs to a lively photo display of the rare flue-cured stick barns still standing today in North Carolina.
The conference began on Tuesday with a general session, led by welcomes from the conference hosts, the University of Georgia and the Georgia Tobacco Commission.
Dr. William Collins, a member of Tobacco Farm Quarterly’s editorial board and a stalwart of tobacco from North Carolina State University, presented a fascinating analysis of how the declining on-farm demonstrations of years ago were reducing the benefits to growers and shrinking the dissemination of information on tobacco production.
The presentation provided a solid bookend for the report by retired agricultural engineer Dr. Larry Sikes. Sikes, who has recently written a book on the subject, outlined productivity improvements in flue-cured production from 1950.
Barbara Martinelli of Imperial Tobacco gave an informative discussion of the situation with agrichemical residues and what growers will soon be facing as their crops are bought for overseas markets.
The agronomy section presented discussions on topics such as the effects of production practices on TSNAs, the genetic improvement of tobacco with respect to nornicotine levels, production practices that improve yield and profit and studies involving the use of irrigation, sucker control and chemical residues.
The agricultural economics group saw frequently big audiences. Discussion led off with a look at the current tobacco situation and an outlook for the future. A section on tobacco production economics looked at the mechanization of burley harvesting, labor and curing structure costs in burley production, financial management with an eye on labor and how the buyout has affected production, farmer attitudes and grower production in North Carolina.
Other agricultural economics sections included discussions on the changing landscape of the tobacco industry, a look at the first decade of life with the Master Settlement Agreement and new crop opportunities, including renewable energy crops.
Agricultural engineering also addressed the burley mechanization question and looked at strategies for flue-cured tobacco production as well as mechanization programs for both flue-cured and burley.
Entomology sessions looked at insect management through the use of a cover crop, insecticide resistance for plants in dealing with specific insect pests, and future Extension entomology programs in North Carolina.
Thursday’s lunch featured the presentation of TWC recognition awards to distinguished members of the group.
The 2009 Tobacco Workers Conference will be held at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.
For a complete listing of subjects covered at the Tobacco Workers’ Conference and a list of speakers on those subjects, contact conference chairman Paul Sumner, University of Georgia (firstname.lastname@example.org) or any of the section program chairs: Daniel Green, University of Tennessee (email@example.com), agricultural economics; Paul Sumner, University of Georgia (firstname.lastname@example.org), agricultural engineering; Paul Denton, University of Tennessee (email@example.com), agronomy; Robert McPherson, University of Georgia (firstname.lastname@example.org), entomology; Alex Csnios, University of Georgia, (email@example.com), Tobacco Disease Council.