The supply of tobacco plants was extremely tight for the 2014 planting season, and there may not have been a single unused plant left in the U.S. Tobacco Belt when setting was done.
Extreme weather variations in late winter and early spring in most tobacco-growing areas had lead to many seedings never developing at all and others progressing way behind schedule.
But it appears that most farmers were able to find as many plants as they needed, or very close to it, according to Extension specialists and grower association leaders.
Most Virginia growers who needed plants were able to find them when other farmers finished transplanting and found they had plants left over to sell, said David Reed, Virginia Tech University Extension tobacco specialist. “Very few acres will be left unplanted.”
“At one time, we were afraid we would fall 10 percent to 15 percent short of having the plants we needed,” said Graham Boyd, executive vice president of the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina. “But as best I can tell, most acres that farmers intended to plant were planted.”
But there will be a difference in the plants this year compared to the past. “When it became clear that the initial seeding of plants was not going to be enough, some growers seeded their greenhouses a second time after the first seeding was set out.”
That is not an unheard of practice, but it was attempted much more often this season, Boyd said.
“We have much more 'late-seeded' tobacco in 2014 than we have ever had,” he said. “That brings a few risks. It is very likely that late-seeded plants went into hot soils. You would expect to take the risk of sacrificing some yield with tobacco planted late in hot soils.”
But many farmers decided it was an acceptable risk. “If you have irrigation, that would make it a safer choice,” said Loren Fisher, North Carolina State University Extension tobacco specialist. But really hot weather in June could cause some problems.
Still, Boyd said the situation in the field fairly guaranteed that farmers would keep setting out as long as they could find plants, even if they had been in the greenhouse for the bare minimum period.
“Some had their land ridged up already, some had fumigated already, even some had applied insecticides, and with all that done and ready to go, growers thought they could set a few late plants and take a chance on how they would turn out,” he said.
Burley seeded later and other tobacco news
The plant shortage was less severe for burley, probably since seeding takes place later and many houses weren't seeded until after the worst of the winter weather.
There were early apprehensions about plants, but in late May, the plant supply in Kentucky seemed adequate, probably because some expected contracts came through late and others didn't come in at all, said Bob Pearce, University of Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist.
In the dark-producing area of western Kentucky and Tennessee, Andy Bailey, Extension dark tobacco specialist, said that there appeared to be no shortage of plants.
In southwest Virginia, the main burley-growing area of the state, though, a serious shortage of plants was feared if any problem arose that required replanting. Fewer farmers are growing plants. “Most of the growers who sell plants sold out early,” said Danny Peek, Virginia District Extension director in Abingdon, Va.
Other tobacco news:
-Thrips incidence was unusually large in North Carolina early in the season, but the North Carolina State University Extension entomologist said at the time that spraying was not likely to be justified.
“The foliar feeding damage by thrips now is likely negligible,” she says. “It is occurring early in the season on leaves that will be on the lower part of the plant and subject to much more abuse before harvest.” Foliar treatments are generally not very effective against thrips at any time because they are not persistent and are difficult to time, she adds. As of June 5, a small number of plants in North Carolina had shown signs of tomato spotted wilt virus infection, she said.
-Above-normal black shank was reported in Georgia in late May. “The reason is probably that we had a lot of weather events after planting that involved excessive rain, then drying,: said J. Michael Moore, University of Georgia Extension tobacco specialist. Roots and stems were injured, allowing the black shank pathogen to enter the plant. Some plants collapsed without ever yellowing.
-The U.S. Tobacco Cooperative (USTC) has appointed a new chief executive officer, Stuart Thompson, who has served as USTC chief financial officer in 2011.