Sunday, March 20, 2016


A farmer beds his tobacco land before transplanting near Cobbtown, 
Ga., on March 18. The season's first plantings reportedly took place 
four days earlier in Florida (Photo courtesy of J.Michael Moore).

The first tobacco of 2016 has been planted in Florida and Georgia, beginning on March 14, and land preparation is proceeding at a breakneck pace everywhere else. Higher temperatures than normal for this time of year helped farmers in the Deep South get a good start, says Extension specialist J. Michael Moore stationed in Tifton, Ga. "It was 89 degrees Wednesday. The dogwoods are blooming, the azaleas are out, and our growers want to get their plants in the field."

There will be plenty of Type 14 plants, with probably some excess to sell, Moore says. "We had to commit before contracts were out, and some companies cut back, so we may have seeded more than we will need." Still, for now, Moore is estimating Georgia acreage will be close to last year's 13,500 acres. Florida may fall a bit but he is hoping for 1,000 acres.

No reason to think tomato spotted wilt won't make an impact this season. "We have plenty of weeds, and there are plenty of thrips in those weeds," says Moore. "We have to be prepared for a heavy load of tomato spotted wilt right after transplanting."

Growers in Tennessee began seeding their greenhouses late in February, and now the process is well under way, says Eric Walker, Extension tobacco specialist stationed in Springfield, Tn. Things seem to be going well, but Walker reminds growers to replace EPS trays at least every three years. "These trays can increasingly harbor diseases, such as Pythium, with each additional year of use."

Seeding of dark tobacco in western Kentucky and middle Tennessee started around March 1. "There was not much seeding done at the beginning," says Andy Bailey, Extension dark tobacco specialist stationed in Princeton, Ky. "The bulk went in from about March 15." Plants were just beginning to appear in the earliest seeded greenhouses by the end of this week. "If all goes well, seeding will be finished by early April, with first transplantings around May 1 or as soon as the weather permits."

Much of the Kentucky burley crop remains to be seeded, says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist, but seedlings are already up in some greenhouses. Progress has been good but he is concerned about predicted high temperatures. "Make sure the heat is not excessive in the greenhouse," he advises.

Be sure to keep the temperature in your greenhouses below 90 degrees. The temperature can increase very rapidly on sunny days any time during the production period, says the South Carolina Extension Service.

A "triple option" of black shank control chemicals? The new products Presidio and Orondis Gold along with Ridomil Gold make your choices a little more complicated. "There may well be some farmers who elect to apply a black shank fungicide preplant or in the transplant water, again at first cultivation, and then again at layby," says Charles Johnson, Virginia Extension plant pathologist. "But most will choose to apply a product in the setter water and then another to use in a field spray during cultivation." Ridomil Gold can still be used at any of these three timings. But the Orondis Gold-Ridomil Gold tank mix and Presidio are to be applied only once during a growing season. And Presidio can only be used as an incorporated field spray in 2016.

All three fungicides should provide good to excellent black shank control, says Johnson. "The Orondis Gold-Ridomil Gold tank mix and Presidio have generally shown the best black shank control in field trials over the past several years." Ultra Flourish and MetaStar can be used in place of Ridomil Gold, but keep in mind that the use rates are higher because these products are less concentrated. 

Despite the bad weather in 2015, flue-cured grower Mel Ray of Whitesville, N.C., had some fields that yielded 3,000 pounds per acre or more, thanks in part to a new soil amendment product called Quick-Sol. He treated both in the greenhouse and in the field. During the drought, the plants weren't stressed. "Once we got rain, these plants came back, and I think the Quick-Sol helped them hold on and stay healthy," says Ray. For more information, see the Soil and Plant Technology website


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