The latest new variety from Rickard Seeds is NC 92, a new release from the North Carolina State University tobacco breeding program. It will be available for tobacco growers in 2012.

This new variety has moderate resistance to bacterial wilt and Race 1 black shank — an important improvement over the standard flue-cured variety, NC 71. 

However, the two varieties have very similar growth and curing characteristics — with NC 71 still a popular choice, Taylor notes.

“Overall the seed outlook is good for tobacco for 2012. We have more than adequate supplies of all our varieties for flue-cured, burley and dark growers,” Taylor adds.

U.S. tobacco acreage was up slightly in 2011 and has remained stable at around 350,000 acres for the past few years.

In flue-cured tobacco, North Carolina continues to be the leading state in terms of production with an estimated 172,000 or 216,000 total acres planted in the U.S. in 2011.

Worldwide, China and Brazil are major players, having far surpassed the U.S. in tobacco production. Brazil and the U.S. have flip-flopped positions in the world tobacco arena over the past decade. Brazil now grows about 1.5 million acres of tobacco, about what the U.S. produced a decade ago.

China continues to be the world’s largest producer of tobacco and is rapidly becoming the world’s largest user of tobacco products. This is a trend that Taylor contends isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

“China grows about a third of the tobacco produced in the world and much of it is used internally — they essentially don’t export tobacco. In fact, over the past few years China has bought tobacco from U.S. growers, so rather than being competitors on the world market, China is a market for U.S.-grown tobacco,” Taylor says.

Higher than expected yields in Brazil this year put a damper on tobacco contracts for some U.S. growers. The intense battle for acres among the South’s traditional crops kept tobacco contracts high enough to sustain the domestic market, but not high enough to attract new production.       

Though not likely to be a record crop, the 2011 U.S. tobacco crop in the Carolinas and Virginia is shaping up to be one of the most uniform crops in recent years.

Long-time Virginia Tech Tobacco Specialist David Reed says much of the tobacco he’s seen this year is ahead of last year’s crop and appears to be progressing with little damage from the heat and drought that has plagued many crops in the Region.   

Speaking at a recent field day at the Pee Dee Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Florence, S.C., retired Clemson Tobacco Specialist Dewitt Gooden says the South Carolina crop has also fared well this year.     

Taylor says he can’t predict the size of the 2012 crop, but contends there will be a good and stable supply of high quality seed from Rickard Seeds. The company’s seed availability will not be a factor in whether a farmer does or doesn’t grow tobacco next year, he concludes. 

rroberson@farmpress.com