Today around the tobacco receiving station there were several farmers who were hearing weather reports out of Jacksonville, FL of a massive Hurricane Irma coming off the coast of Africa. Tonight I saw the YouTube linked below indicating possible build-up of Irma to a Category 5 Hurricane by Thursday of next week with a possible line of travel pointing at the Georgia tobacco crop.
Ventusky shows the GFS model through next Thursday
Weather Channel predicts Cat 3 by Tuesday near the islands
Jacksonville CBS 47 shows the GFS and the EURO models and their predictions
Of course, while I write this I hear a different track being suggested by CNN meteorologists, maybe the Gulf.
Regardless, with a holiday weekend upon us NOW is the time to think about and take action to avoid possible losses to tobacco in the field and curing barns. Harvest cannot go any faster than growers are already going.
We have growers expecting to be harvesting for the next 4 to 5 weeks with the tobacco placed in the barns this week due to run through next Friday and Saturday in some cases. Even without a direct hit outer bands from a hit north of us could result In massive losses of the best tobacco produced in the state this year, the upper stalk, highest priced leaf as it is blown off the stalk and onto the ground. While the natural tendency is to harvest as much as possible before any storm, growers may want to think ahead and not harvest any more than they can foresee completing the cure before damaging winds arrive. Additionally, those same winds could result in downed power lines and interruption of power to curing barns filled with tobacco that cannot stand long periods of time without circulating air, heated or not.
After Hurricane Matthew last year I heard growers saying “I will not go through another crop without a generator that will keep me from losing all the barns I could have running when the power goes off.” Let’s hope those purchases have been made and the generators are in place. With multiple generators in place and the stage of the cure it is possible to cycle on and off a single barn before moving to the next barn and maybe the next before returning to the first one allowing for enough air frequently enough to complete the cure or keep the tobacco from being totally lost before power is restored.
Following are a few of the items I gathered quickly from the internet for grower reference if we should have an Irma affecting our crop. Please consider printing the information at the links for your files and for growers who may need it. Much of this information was generated prior to Hurricanes in North Carolina.
Avoiding Tobacco Curing Losses Due to Electrical Failures
Selecting and Using Standby Electric Power Equipment
Grant Ellington, Department of Biological
and Agricultural Engineering, NCSU
Purchasing a Back-Up Generator for the Farm
- Michael Moore
Professor & Extension Agronomist – Tobacco
University of Georgia