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Tobacco transplanting has been delayed in parts of the Southeast due to extreme weather conditions, however, most growers are optimistic that the plants will catch up once in the field.
WORKERS LOAD TRAYS on a transplanter on a flue-cured farm near Vass, N.C., in early May.
In the North Carolina Piedmont and Coastal plain, it was a hard season for flue-cured plant production too, with the cold and with more cloudy days than usual. "The supply of plants is a little tight, maybe five or 10 percent short of what was planned," said Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist.
In Johnston County, N.C., south of Raleigh in the Coastal Plain, farmers had reasonable success in the greenhouse. "I would say we are four to 5 percent down in useable transplants compared to a normal year," said Bryant Spivey, county Extension director. "But the plants we have are very healthy, and I believe the supply is adequate, but it is close."
Another possibility: the cool temperatures may result in more premature flowering and ground suckers in the field, he said.
Even though the season was running late, some North Carolina growers delayed transplanting a little longer in hopes of warmer temperatures and dryer soils.
"You might say the crop is a week or two behind," said Vann. "But that certainly isn't anything to worry about in this state, especially in the east where we have such a large planting window. From Winston-Salem west (the Piedmont), there might be a little more concern."
In the Pee Dee of eastern South Carolina, farmers were still setting in early May, but most fields have been set, said William Hardee, area Extension agronomy agent in Conway, S.C. "Nearly all our fields got off to a late start. I think everyone will get enough plants, but there will be few left over."