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• 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.
TOBACCO GREENHOUSES produced an excellent crop of plants this season. Here, Bill Miller (right) and Kenneth Reynolds, both of Abingdon, Va., discuss the outlook for Appalachian leaf outside Miller's greenhouse.
Living with greenhouses
What's the single most important management practice in producing tobacco plants in a greenhouse? Frequent inspection, says Miller.
“You've got to practically live with them,” he says. “We inspect ours five to 10 times a day.”
In Tennessee, Shawn Light of Rogersville looks to produce varieties that will help him spread out harvest. He is planting three varieties this season, and they are all of different maturities.
"We plant KY 14 x L8 early, in sod grounds, and cut it in July,” he says. “KT 206 is later in maturity. We try to cut it in September. Hopefully, we can cut NC 7 somewhere in between. If you plant only one variety, you may have trouble getting it all cut on time."
Denton says that KT 206 along with KT 209 have become very popular in Tennessee, as has its sister variety KT 209. KT 210 and some TN 90 are still significantly planted, and there will still be a lot of KY 14 x L8 on farms where black shank isn't a problem.
The outlook for burley produced in the Appalachians seems pretty good now, says Peek. “Every grower who wanted a contract this year got one. The demand for the kind of tobacco we grow here is pretty good.”
“There has been a shift in preference among cigarette manufacturers in favor of the Appalachian style of leaf,” adds Denton.
There was some fear production in the area might be disrupted when Altria closed its receiving station in Midway, Tenn., near Greeneville. The station handled a large volume of burley.
But Peek says the closing hasn't caused the disruption that was initially feared. Other companies have increased their orders.
R.J. Reynolds took up some of the slack, as the Burley Stabilization Corporation took up much of the rest. A few growers are committed enough to Altria to make the long trip to the company's nearest station, in Danville, Ky.