Tim Yarbrough, a flue-cured grower in Prospect Hill, North Carolina, is worried that there may be an imbalance between tobacco demand and tobacco supply.

“I hope we are not looking at an oversupply situation. Soft demand and too much tobacco would be a ‘perfect storm’ leading to a much lower price,” said Yarbrough, the new president of the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina.

Earlier in March, Yarbrough, who farms with his brother Kenneth, planned to increase acreage but no more than a 5-percent increase. They might have considered more but suitable land isn't available.

Contract prices were reasonably attractive at the beginning of March. “It's been $2.25 on the high end, with lugs in the $1.65 to $1.75 range,” he said.

The Yarbrough family grows all flue-cured now, but in the years since the program ended, they have tried their hands at burley and dark. The experiments weren't successful. “The yield on both was too low to be profitable,” Yarbrough said.

That may have been because of the soil type. “We are on the sandy side of Caswell County,” he said.

By the way, there is a lot of flue-cured history in Yarbrough’s area. The bright curing process was invented just 20 miles away on the Slade Farm north of Yanceyville.

Yarbrough is trying out a new variety this year with the goal of keeping his curing barns productive as much as he can.

Early maturing variety cured before others harvested?

PVH 2310, a new variety from F.W. Rickards, is said to mature early, ripen quickly and can be harvested much earlier than traditional varieties. Rickards suggests the variety could potentially be harvested and cured before you even began harvesting other varieties.

“We hope to use it to maximize barn space,” said Yarbrough. “We still plant a lot of K 326 and some NC 196. We harvest by hand and cure almost all in boxes. We are moving away from racks.”

He is also planting about a third of his crop in PVH 2110. “It's a Rickard's variety with similarities to K326 but with possibly higher yields, he said.

Rod Kuegel, a burley and dark tobacco grower from Owensboro, KY, is looking at two burley varieties that might help in his operation:

KT 212 is an early maturing variety comparable to KY 14 x L 8 but with higher resistance to Race One black shank and similar high resistance to Race Zero.

HP 4488 is a new variety from F.W. Rickards that appears to be medium-late in maturity with  high yield potential and quality at least equal to other popular varieties. It has high resistance to Race 0 black shank and medium resistance to Race One.

In other tobacco news, one key to controlling Palmer amaranth pigweed in tobacco is to control weeds in field borders, says Matthew Vann, North Carolina State University Extension tobacco specialist. “Large weeds can enter mechanical harvesters as they are transported through field borders.” And natural weed seed dispersal mechanisms can be a problem also. “Weed seed can move from field borders into production areas if control measures are not properly implemented,” he said.