Wet and stormy August delays tobacco harvest

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Tobacco growers throughout the region are concerned that if the wet, stormy weather continues that it might impact their upcoming harvest.

The weather in June and July didn't pose many problems to tobacco growers in the region, but August marks the start of harvest, and the weather has made harvesting difficult.

"In order to harvest you need a window of several dry days so you can cut the tobacco and let it sit out for a couple of days," says UK Tobacco Specialist Bob Pearce. "When we get these heavy rains, it creates significant quality issues by washing mud up onto the cut tobacco before it can be harvested."

Rain, hail and strong winds are all rough on tobacco crops and central Kentucky has seen it all since late July. Heavy rain can cause damage to the roots of the plant but moisture on the leaves can pose an even more serious threat to growers.

"We have to be really careful about putting workers into wet tobacco because if you get saturated with water and your clothes get saturated with water, you can actually absorb some of that nicotine through your skin, and it can make people very sick," says Pearce. It's called Green Tobacco Sickness.

The harvest season continues for the next several weeks and if the humidity drops and the rain holds off, it might be a more successful harvest season for growers in central Kentucky.

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