Most tobacco farms today are equipped with back-up generators to provide energy during inclement weather. If a generator has not been purchased, sources to rent, lease, or buy one is strongly urged. A small standby generator can be moved from barn-to-barn and can be effective in keeping tobacco cool during periods of power outages. More information is available through Cooperative Extension concerning the purchase of a standby generator.
Should adverse weather cause the loss of electrical current to the tobacco curing barn and a backup generator is not available, listed below are some tips that are recommended in order to minimize leaf damage.
For tobacco that is being cured, the damage that might be sustained is related to the stage of cure when the power is lost and the condition of the tobacco when it is loaded into the barn. Tobacco that is in the very early or late stages of curing generally fairs the best when the power is out for extended periods. The following guidelines are useful when generator capacity is limited or not available:
- Yellowing (95 degrees WB/100 degrees DB) - about 24 hours - This period can be extended if the tobacco can be cooled to near outside temperatures before power outage occurs or as soon as possible after the outage occurs. Thereafter, the heat should be flushed every hour if the generator capacity is not sufficient to continue the cure normally. If a generator is not available, all air vents and doors should be opened to allow as much heat as possible to escape.
- Late yellowing/early leaf drying (105 degrees WB/105-115 degrees DB) - about 6 hours - This is the most critical period for damage and the tobacco should be cooled as soon as possible by any means available, with the heat being flushed every hour as suggested above. If sufficient generator capacity is not available and your area is expecting severe damage, tobacco that would be in this stage of curing during a prolonged power outage might be more profitable to the grower if it had not harvested.
- Leaf drying (105 degrees WB/120-135 DB) - about 24 hours - Extend the safe period by cooling as suggested above. Stem drying (110 degrees WB/150 degrees + DB) - several days - Attention to these barns can be delayed in order to provide attention to barns in the earliest stages of curing.
Damage to tobacco during power outages is usually more severe in boxes than racks and particularly when containers are not loaded uniformly or loaded with wet tobacco. Therefore, tobacco harvested between now and the time the threat is passed should be harvested dry, loaded uniformly, and perhaps the containers should be loaded lighter than normal in order to maximize air movement and cooling potential should a power outage occur.
Growers who have insurance that requires a certain amount of hail damage before wind damage is in effect should be aware that hail damage is very difficult to prove following a hurricane. This is due to the fact that hail during a hurricane is rare and severe wind damage may mask damage due to hail. Therefore, evidence such as photographs of the hail (with date and time) or eye witness accounts by neighbors could be helpful in these situations.
For more information on disaster preparedness and recovery visit the NC Disaster Information Center.
Adapted by Dr. Grant Ellington, Extension Assistant Professor and Mitch Smith, County Extension Director.
Publication date: June 11, 2014
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