Since its inception, the tobacco research and Extension collaboration between the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture and the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture has helped both universities successfully further and improve their tobacco research and Extension efforts.
"It's a win-win-win-win situation for the University of Kentucky, University of Tennessee, the tobacco industry and growers," said Bob Miller, UK/UT tobacco breeding and genetics researcher.
UK and UT combined efforts to meet the needs of both states in 1999 before the tobacco buyout. Miller was the first person appointed to a joint UK/UT faculty position as a result of the collaboration. This was so successful that Andy Bailey, UK Extension specialist for dark tobacco, was added a few years later.
On July 1, Paul Denton, Extension specialist for burley tobacco, became the third joint faculty member in the collaboration. Part of his responsibilities include working with UK Tobacco Extension Specialist Bob Pearce to meet burley tobacco growers' needs in the state.
"I'm looking forward to it," Denton said. "There's a lot of regional interaction between Kentucky and Tennessee. I've worked with the Kentucky tobacco specialists for the past five years as the tobacco specialist for the University of Tennessee."
A smaller number of tobacco farmers remain in the post-buyout era, but those farmers are growing more acreage. Within this new environment, the collaboration allows both universities to maintain a high level of service to the growers and keep up with industry changes.
"The collaboration has certainly helped us meet the needs of more farmers," said Tim Cross, UT dean of Extension. "It allows us to serve our geographical regions better. It also has enabled our specialists to have a more defined area and allowed them to focus on a specific set of crops."
Tobacco was a natural area for the universities to build a partnership, because the states are two of the largest tobacco-producing states in the nation, and they have similar climates and disease situations for tobacco. Miller, Bailey and Denton are well-known and respected by industry professionals and have a rich history of working with growers in both states.
"The problems with tobacco don't stop at state lines," said Michael Barrett, chair of the UK Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. "The collaboration has allowed us to deal with issues in both states and created access to research facilities in both states."
The access to research facilities at experiment stations in both states has helped the researchers expand their studies.
"From a professional research standpoint, it's an ideal situation," Miller said.
Barrett said Miller's research has produced the premiere tobacco breeding program in the world. He has developed new tobacco varieties that are widely grown in both states.
As the demand for dark tobacco has increased in recent years, Bailey has made strides with double-crop curing of dark tobacco, helping save growers the cost of additional infrastructure to meet industry demands.
"Dark tobacco has seen an 18 to 20 percent increase in acreage since the buyout, which is the exact opposite of burley," Bailey said. "With the buyout, we lost growers but gained acreage, so we have fewer barns that are curing more tobacco."
Because of tobacco's regionalization, the two states have been able to combine Extension efforts to consolidate duplicated publications into an easy to understand tobacco production guide.
"It really has made the process more efficient," said Bob Pearce, UK burley tobacco Extension specialist. "The content has improved, and I expect to see it continue to improve."
Both states tobacco production guides are available at county Extension offices in both states. Kentucky's guide is available online at http://www.uky.edu/Ag/Tobacco/ and Tennessee's guide can be viewed at http://tobaccoinfo.utk.edu.