November 20, 1998 | By: Randy Weckman

Hot, dry weather in the fall caused many Kentucky farmers' tobacco to cure too quickly resulting in considerable variegated color in the cured leaf, which is not desirable by cigarette manufacturers, according to George Duncan, Extension agricultural engineer with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

"The variegated colors include the yellowish, mottled or bleached areas scattered over the desired uniform tan, tannish-red and dark-red colors of good leaves. When the tobacco is officially graded at the market, a lot of tobacco containing more than 20 percent of the off-color leaves will qualify for the "K"grade designation, which reduces the price support by 35 to 39 cents per pound," Duncan said.

Greenish colors also result from too fast drying or bruising. This type of tobacco will grade "V," he said. And this grade designation can reduce price support by 20 to 28 cents per pound.

Nightly fogs and humidity of the fall can help change these mottled colors, but some producers are eager to strip their tobacco for early sales, he said.

How should this year's crop be stripped?

Duncan said that general indications are that three grades will be important for top prices.

The flylings, lugs and red leaf groups all have different chemical and flavor characteristics that manufacturers need for cigarette production.

"Manufacturers would rather do the blending than have the farmer mix grades into one or two grades," he said.

Red tips were in strong demand last year with some lots bringing $2.05 per pound. They may be in demand again this year, Duncan said.

"To receive an official grade of "T" for tips, 80 percent or more of the leaves need to be 16 inches or less in length. Obviously, good, red upper stalk leaves of longer lengths were bought for top prices last year," he said.

The variegated or greenish leaves need to be kept to under 20 percent of the lot to avoid the "K" and "V" grades. And, he said, farmers should avoid putting two stalk groups into the same grade to avoid the "M" grade designation.

Contact: 

Writer: Randy Weckman
(606) 257-3937

Source: George Duncan
(606) 257-3000