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Tobacco’s future still stands tall

The simple, straightforward name says it all — Tobacco Day. This annual event was held at the Johnston County Extension Center near Smithfield, N.C., on Dec. 1, and a hall full of tobacco growers and industry associates had the opportunity to “collect their collective thoughts,” so to speak, on the state of the industry.

North Carolina State University horticultural scientist David Monks and Southeast District Extension leader Bryant Spivey welcomed visitors. Agronomist Mina Mila served as emcee, introducing the Extension specialists from NCSU’s various departments who made research-related presentations.

A subject of ongoing concern on the part of international tobacco customers and marketers in recent years has been chemical residues on tobacco, particularly regarding sucker-control materials like maleic hydrazide, or MH. NCSU agronomist Loren Fisher started off the presentations with his talk on the application of tobacco sucker-control materials, and how to avoid or limit such residues.

Fisher’s discussion was followed by an equally compelling discussion of another problem for tobacco growers in recent years, Granville wilt disease. Mila, a plant pathologist, made a presentation on her research of the tobacco disease, particularly focusing on management considerations that can help with control.

Key Points

Tobacco Day takes an overall look at tobacco.

Residues and Granville wilt remain the top concerns.

The industry honors three distinguished “Tobacco Greats.”


Entomologist Hannah Burrack discussed NCSU research into integrated pest management, and agricultural engineer Grant Ellington provided an overview of technologies that can cut energy costs during tobacco curing.

Following a midmorning break, Burrack presided as emcee over the remainder of the program. Crop scientist Sandy Stewart provided an update on NCSU’s Tobacco Variety Testing Program. Licensed pesticide operator Phillip Sykes discussed the current status of fumigant regulation. NCSU plant pathologist Weimin Ye gave an update on tobacco nematodes in the state, including findings of the 2011 Root-Knot Nematodes survey.

One of the highlights of the event each year is NCSU economist Blake Brown’s update on tobacco’s situation and outlook. This year, Arnold Hamm, who sits on the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee that makes recommendations to the Food and Drug Administration on the regulation of tobacco, also informed attendees on FDA’s progress.

To top off the day’s speakers, Craig West, a Fremont, N.C., tobacco grower who is also president of the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina, gave “A Grower’s Perspective” on the current tobacco situation.

Tobacco Greats receive awards

Near the end of the proceedings, David Smith, NCSU’s associate dean for research, who also serves as director of the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service, presented the 2011 Tobacco Greats Award to three recipients.

David Conner, South Boston, Va., got the award for his lifelong work, including his contributions on the board of directors for the North Carolina Tobacco Foundation and as a leaf purchaser for Philip Morris International.

Charlie King, who passed away in October after a battle with cancer, was honored with the award posthumously. His family, including his wife, Anna, was on hand to accept the award on his behalf.

Brian Smeeton is a native of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) who immigrated to the United States. He earned the award for his work as a tobacco geneticist, developing many varieties over his career. His work with varieties that are resistant to fungal diseases and root-knot nematodes has been a boon to farmers. Smeeton works with Cross Creek Seed.

This article published in the February, 2012 edition of CAROLINA-VIRGINIA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.