Georgia tobacco transplant producers experienced unusual weather conditions during the early part of the year, complicating some of their production efforts, says J. Michael Moore, University of Georgia Extension tobacco specialist.

“Extremely warm temperatures in February, when plants were small and more sensitive to heat, caused growers to be more attentive than normal of their beds and plant houses,” says Moore. “Extremely cold temperatures in early March caused additional heating of plant houses and additional cover management on the part of bed producers.”

Plants in most beds and houses had been clipped several times, he says, and survived the cold temperatures without significant losses.

“Some reports of plant loss to rhizoctonia and pythium have been received from plant house producers. Some growers who have had their problem diagnosed as pythium are using the new product, Terramaster, which was labeled in 2001 for controlling this problem in float-type production,” says Moore.

Terramaster — a Uniroyal product — is labeled for use two to three weeks after seeding as a preventative or curative for pythium, he adds.

According to the Farm Services Agency, the basic allotment for Georgia tobacco in 2002 is 27,999 acres, with an effective allotment after overmarketings of 27,762 acres, says Moore. Basic quota for the year is 61,254,297 pounds with an effective quota of 60,708,720 pounds.

“With what is said the be one of the largest amounts of carryover tobacco in Georgia in recent times, it would appear that the planted acreage should not be the full effective allotment and may be reduced by as much as 5 to 7 percent,” he says.

The North Carolina State University Blue Mold System has issued notice of a blue mold threat for north Florida and south Georgia, according to Paul Bertrand, University of Georgia Extension plant pathologist.

The spore movement into the area occurred March 1-2 from Cuba, says Bertrand. “This means air currents were moving from Cuba over north Florida and south Georgia with a potential for spore deposit and infection in the region,” he says.

The Flue-Cured Tobacco Cooperative Stabilization Corporation has announced it will operate 14 tobacco auction marketing centers in flue-cured states this growing season, including two in the Cape Fear region — in Clinton and Fairmont.

Lionel Edwards, general manager of the corporation, says the corporation's board of directors wanted to insure that leaf growers had alternatives to contracting in 2002.

About 80 percent of tobacco growers signed contracts in 2001 to sell their leaf directly to cigarette makers. That was an increase from only 5 percent in 2000.

The switch to contracting has forced many tobacco auction warehouses out of business, leaving fewer choices for farmers who did not receive contracts or who did not want to sign contracts.

In 2001, about 114.2 million pounds of tobacco was sold at auction. About 440.5 million pounds was sold under contract. The average price paid for a pound of tobacco in 2001 was $1.86. Contract prices exceeded auction prices by 4.3 cents per pound.

This year, farmers must designate by April 15 how and where they will sell their tobacco. The Stabilization ran two marketing centers last year — one in Wilson, N.C., and another in Statesboro, Ga.

Stabilization, says Edwards, will operate the marketing centers this year not for a profit but to give farmers more options. Stabilization also will absorb most of the fees that farmers have traditionally paid at auction, he adds.

“The emphasis will be on integrity and efficiency - insuring that buyers get what they purchase and that sales are run as smoothly as possible,” says Edward. “The location of the marketing centers doesn't give access to all farmers but reaches a good percentage.”

Stabilization staff members have met with representatives from all tobacco companies to explain how the marketing centers will work, he says.

“Every one told us they will be in the market to buy tobacco at auction if there is enough tobacco to justify keeping a buyer there,” notes Edwards.

The marketing centers, he adds, target the smaller cigarette makers and overseas buyers, who prefer to buy only the grade of leaf for which they have received orders.

For a list of the 14 marketing centers, go to Stabilization's Website at www.ustobaccofarmer.com or call 800-876-4560.