• 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.
• If farmers can get it harvested, this should be an average tobacco crop or maybe a little better
• Virginia tobacco growers are looking at a mid-October finish for most, and some will take longer than that.
“This has been one of the more difficult crops we have had to produce,” said Fisher.
In Virginia, there was still a tremendous amount of flue-cured in the field.
"If we have an early frost, we could lose a significant amount,” said David Reed, Virginia Extension tobacco specialist. “Very few flue-cured growers say they will be finished by the end of September.
“We are looking at a mid-October finish for most, and some will take longer than that."
In South Carolina, harvest of the flue-cured crop was a little farther along than normal, with an estimated 80 percent out of the field by the week before Labor Day.
It was also hotter than most other tobacco areas, with temperatures still pushing 95 degrees in the Pee Dee, said Tré Coleman, marketing specialist for the South Carolina Department of Agriculture. “And we haven't gotten much rain at all."
He predicted harvest in the state would be substantially complete by mid-September.
The best Georgia flue-cured crop in recent years was about three quarters harvested by Labor Day, said J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco agronomist.
“Tobacco has held very well considering the weather conditions,” he said. "But now it is beginning to break. Growers are turning over their barns as fast as they can."
For the first time in recent years, most Georgia growers will fulfill their contracts and have additional tobacco to sell this season.
Much of their good fortune with this crop resulted from the very late appearance of tomato spotted wilt virus. The normally ravaging disease did not appear until after transplanting, and losses were unusually low.
The August USDA crop report projected flue-cured production at 454.2 million pounds, down 14 percent from 2009.
The burley crop in Kentucky faced its own deterioration problems in September, said Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist.
“Thanks to the hot, humid weather in August, we have some target spot, frogeye and a little brown spot, and a lot of the lower leaves are firing up,” he said. “That could lead to some weight loss. But it may not be as bad as it looks.”
Overall, he said the Kentucky crop is fair to good. “I think we are looking at a normal statewide yield or maybe a little more than normal."
A little over half was harvested at the end of August.
Some of the best-looking burley in Tennessee was that set relatively late, in early- to mid-June, said Paul Denton, Kentucky/Tennessee Extension tobacco specialist. It got some rain but also enough dry weather to develop a deep root system.
“It was really dry in late June, especially in southern Kentucky and in northern parts of eastern Tennessee,” he said. “Tobacco there was suffering. Then it got very hot and damaged the latest set crops. In mid July, many places started to get rain and things improved.”