The warm winter and spring in almost all southern tobacco-growing areas led to an early crop of transplants coming out greenhouses.

That was especially true in the Appalachian ridges and valleys of east Tennessee, western North Carolina and southwestern Virginia where the burley type has traditionally been grown.

David Miller of Abingdon, Va., who produces plants for his own use and also to sell, says his burley plants grew quickly in the two 30x96 foot greenhouses he operates. The crop in the area was at least a week earlier than normal, with the first plants going out to the field on May 5.

Danny Peek, Virginia Extension burley specialist, agrees that plants were earlier than normal this year in Appalachian Virginia, which is in the southwestern corner of the state. “It was warm, and they grew quickly.”

He didn't expect any problems as a result. “We should be okay as long as it doesn’t turn off wet. But if transplanting is held up, we might be looking at a lot of clipping.”

In Tennessee, there was a little more spiral root in the greenhouse than normal because of heat early in the planting season, says Extension specialist Paul Denton. But he expects there will be enough transplants to go around.

Despite the early start, it seemed likely that planting would continue into July.

There certainly was no shortage of plants in the Appalachians, and that worked in favor of farmers who buy their plants instead of growing them. Kenneth Reynolds, a neighbor of Miller's in Abingdon, Va., has used greenhouse plants since 2000, But he has never owned a house himself.

It has never seemed economical to me to have my own,” he says. “I can buy plants cheaper than I can produce them.”

He contracts ahead of time with a local plant producer.