After the wettest Kentucky spring on record, summer delivered much less impressive rainfall; and many parts of the state have slipped into drought status.

For burley growers, the dry conditions remind them of this time last year, when much of the tobacco crop was lost in the barn.

UK Agricultural Meteorologist Mike Mathews said a dry August, combined with the dry end of July, caused drought conditions to expand quickly from west to east across the commonwealth.

“From the beginning of August to the end, drought conditions have gone from nearly no coverage to over 70-percent coverage of the state,” he said.

“Most of that area is abnormally dry. However, 31 percent of the state is in moderate drought and 4 percent has gone into severe drought.”

“Burley growers should be somewhat concerned,” said Bob Pearce, UK Extension tobacco specialist. “Obviously the drought conditions have had a negative impact on burley crop growth, but we’re more concerned with trying to determine the impact of this dry air mass on curing.”

With much of the state’s burley tobacco crop hanging in the barns, Pearce said drier-than-normal conditions across the state could cause the crop to cure too rapidly.

“Anyone involved in burley remembers last year’s events,” Pearce continued. “The dry air resulted in poor curing, low-quality tobacco that was either severely discounted or rejected at the market. A repeat of that situation would really be disastrous to our growers and the entire industry.”

“The latest U.S. drought monitor indicates that parts of Kentucky have moved into severe drought status,” said Tom Priddy, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture meteorologist. “Preliminary numbers show that August was the 17th driest on record. Every week of August recorded below normal rainfall.”

Priddy said dew-point temperatures are on the rise and that could help slow the drying of tobacco in the barns, but burley growers still need to keep a close eye on the situation and take as many damage-control measures as possible.