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Comparing tobacco yields across the state

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By Rick Greenwell

I received this latest update on our tobacco crop this year and I thought it was interesting and I wanted to share it with everyone.

Obviously, 2007 was not a typical tobacco production year for any area of Kentucky. According to the Kentucky Farm Business Management (KFBM) program records for 2007, wide variation existed across the state. Post buy-out Kentucky has also seen considerable shifts in tobacco production. Some areas have seen sharp acreage declines, while other areas, especially western Kentucky, have experienced increases in tobacco acreage.

Producers as a whole in 2007 experienced a severe drought that greatly affected production. The state average burley yield, according to KFBM, was 2,343 lbs/acre. This was represents a 6.4 percent decrease from 2006. However, producers in both the Ohio Valley and Lincoln Trail areas experienced an increase in production per acre. Decreases in the Pennyroyal and Bluegrass areas can largely be attributed to a more severe drought in those areas.

According to KFBM records, small producers (those farming less than 1000 total acres) tend to have higher yields. In 2007 small producers averaged 2,543 lbs./acre. Interestingly, producers who crop 2,000 acres or greater only averaged 2,178 lbs./acre, and those cropping between 1,000 and 2,000 acres averaged 2,346 lbs./acre. The pattern held for 2004, 2005 and 2006. Although small producers tended to produce more per acre, they were not able to affect the state average yield to a significant degree.

Dark Air production, like burley, also experienced a decrease for 2007. On average, per acre production decreased 17.5 percent or 592 lbs./acre to 2,787 lbs./acre. Typically, dark air tobacco is thought of as a western Kentucky crop; however in recent years we have begun to notice some dark air production moving east. In 2007, Lincoln Trail area producers had a production increase of 2039 lbs./acre compared to 2006. This is a large increase, but represents a small number of producers in that area. As this area becomes more familiar with dark air production, others will begin to produce.

Dark Fire production, like burley and dark air, saw a decline in production in 2007. Although, producers on average saw a decline of 649 lbs./acre, several producers have increased dark fire acres. Not only have western Kentucky producers increased their total acreage of tobacco, they have also begun to shift to Dark Fire/Air types at the cost of burley acreage. Producers in several areas of the state have also invested large amounts of capital in Dark Fire/Air in hopes of increasing farm profits. Coming off two bad weather years that drastically reduced the profitability of grain crops and livestock, dark tobacco has looked much more profitable.