Almost all areas in the South where tobacco is grown received extended periods of abnormal heat during the 2010 growing season, much of it occurring from mid-June to the end of July.

Despite that, most growers with tobacco still in the field appeared to have a good, useable crop just before Labor Day, and leaf that had been harvested and cured already was for the most part receiving satisfactory quality grades.

But more tobacco than normal was still in the field at the beginning of September, in part because of heat-related slow growth. That raised the possibility of yield loss to frost if farmers weren’t able to complete harvest in a timely manner. And there was another problem: Leaf deterioration in the field.
“It was a very hot summer, and there was an extended dry spell in mid-season,” said Loren Fisher, North Carolina Extension tobacco specialist, in an early September interview. “Now we are seeing a lot of breakdown and deterioration in our flue-cured crop because of the heat stress.

“Some diseases are causing losses, mainly black shank and Granville wilt.”

That was a problem, because many plants were ripe and ready to harvest, he said.

“There has been some loss of yield potential already. We will just have to do the best we can from here to the end.”

But there is not really anything farmers can do in this situation except to harvest as fast as they feasibly can, said Fisher. “There are some practices that would enhance holding ability, but they would also affect maturity, so they would not be a good option.”

Rain is about the only thing that would help, by lowering the heat, he said.

If farmers can get it harvested, this should be an average crop or maybe a little better, said Fisher. But there was nothing average about the management required to get it in.