What is in this article?:
- What tobacco farmers can expect in 2014
- Lessons to learn
- Most U.S. tobacco growers experienced a roller coaster ride in 2013.
- The low point was excessive rain and resulting yield losses.
- The peak was high prices when there wasn't enough leaf to go around.
FARMERS WILL BEGIN seeding tobacco greenhouses soon, and they all hope to produce plants as healthy as this one grown in a previous crop by Jay Head, left, nd George Marks, burley and dark growers near Clarksville, Tenn. But how much should they grow?
Lessons to learn
What can farmers learn from the wet season of 2013? A number of farmers and Extension specialists shared their thoughts about that question at the request of Southeast Farm Press:
-- Kevin Gardner of Macclesfield, N.C., said that thanks to the rain in eastern North Carolina, his flue-cured leaf had little body. “It didn't have a good root system, and the yield was off,” said Gardner, who farms with his father, two uncles and a cousin. As a result, he is also worried about the nicotine content of the U.S. crop.
“The nicotine levels were very low," he said. “That could cause problems down the road. What makes American flue-cured so valuable is the way it smokes, and nicotine is an important part of that. A low-nicotine crop is expensive for the companies."
-- Ricky Webb of Saratoga, N.C., said that his crop, like many others last season, was good in quality but a little short in yield. “We only made 2,650 pounds,” he said. “We would like to have made 3,000 pounds.”
The average price was considerable consolation. “We averaged $2.18 a pound,” he said.
In hopes of replacing nitrogen that had been lost to leaching, Webb applied some 24S using a drop nozzle. “We put it right on the ground where the plant needs it.”
All the wet weather contributed to target spot, and Webb had to make three applications of Quadris. The physical character of the crop helped in the curing. “We were able to get the crop cured quicker than most years,” Webb said. “It took about eight days per cure.”
He wishes it had cured even faster. This crop was late in maturity, and he lost some leaf because his curing capacity wasn't adequate. “We made 94 percent of what we contracted to produce,” he said. “We would have made it all if we'd had seven more barns.”
-- Barn space also proved to be a problem for flue-cured grower Kenneth Dasher of Live Oak, Fla. “We had our best ever crop until June,” he said. ”Then it rained 28 out of the 31 days in July.” Maturity was delayed, but when it started getting ripe, it came off fast. “As a result, some burned up on me.”
-- Plenty of barns were bought in 2013, and that trend seems likely to continue. An industry report said that the current bulk curing barn inventory includes many old wood-frame barns that show signs of deterioration. Though still functioning, they are not reliable and are expensive to operate and maintain. About 19,200 bulk barns were thought to have been used in 2013. Half will require replacement in the near future, the report said.