FINCHVILLE, Ky. - For Kentucky's burley tobacco farmers, forecasts for a close-to-average yield are coming as a big relief after sweating through prospects of a paltry harvest as extreme heat and a dry spell stunted the crop's growth for much of the season.
Tobacco showed its toughness after timely rains spurred a late-season spurt for much of the crop. In a matter of weeks, some knee-high burley sprouted to shoulder length. The added weight of the tobacco leaves figures to help fatten paychecks for farmers at markets that open late in the year.
Farmers are just starting to harvest the burley crop, which is used in cigarettes. It's a turnaround that never materialized for much of Kentucky's corn crop, which was irreparably damaged by hot, dry weather.
"In July when it was 106 degrees, I was really wondering if we would harvest half of this tobacco," farmer Doug Langley said Thursday while his farmhands stacked long sticks of green-leafed burley in a barn near the rural Kentucky town of Finchville, Ky. in Shelby County.
"And then we got some rains. ... The old timers say just don't give up on a tobacco crop. It'll grow out. And they were exactly right. Just take care of the crop, do the best you can with it and it paid off this year."
Now, Langley is hoping to squeeze a profit from his burley, unlike his corn crop, which he calls his worst ever. Langley, who farms in Shelby, Henry and Spencer counties, predicted half his 3,500-acre corn crop won't produce 50 bushels an acre, which amounts to one-third of his usual corn yield.
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