THE FOURTH of July was no fun for many tobacco growers this summer. This field in Clark County, Ky., was still inundated a day after the rain stopped. Most of the water standing here fell in a 30-minute period.
The fortunes of the 2013 tobacco crop turned very quickly this summer, remembers Steve Walker, Macon County, Tenn., Extension tobacco agent.
On July 2, he toured the county’s burley crop. “It was the best crop I had ever seen.
But on July 4, the rain started falling torrentially, and it continued on the fifth and sixth.
“By July 7, our crop had become one of our worst. It was drowned out all over the county,” said Walker.
There appeared to be a loss of about 40 percent afterward.
“But some of the crop recovered to a degree, and now (mid-August) the damage looks like 25 to 30 percent,” said Walker.
In Ohio, the damage on burley was made worse by sunny days that soon followed the holiday rains. “The (tobacco) crop can survive saturated soils,” said David Dugan, Ohio Extension tobacco educator. “There can besome stunting, and that normally will result in some yield loss.
“But the yield loss can go to 100 percent if the hot sun comes out shortly after the rain and while the soil is still heavily saturated.”
The rains turned a good crop into a mediocre or bad one in much of the burley belt areas. The effect of all the rain was especially devastating in the Bluegrass.
Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist, said at the time the Independence Day Weekend deluge had caused the most widespread damage he had ever seen from a single weather event. Six weeks later, when the loss from abandoned fields and from reduced yield on harvested fields are added together, the losses appeared to him to amount to 25 percent.