Thursday, April 27, 2017


A setting crew on a farm near Kenly, N.C., prepares to head to the field again with flue-cured transplants (file photo by Chris Bickers).

Torrential rains on the night of April 24 and the following morning brought field work to a halt and lead to extensive flooding in most of the flue-cured area of N.C. In Raleigh, as in many other locations, the slow-moving storm set a record on the 24th for the month of April at 4.5 inches. In Kinston, in the 30 hours starting at noon on April 24, it reached 7.04 inches.
Much of the Tar Heel flue-cured crop had been planted by the time the rains fell. "Some growers started the week of the 4th, but most started the week of the 10th,"says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "Conditions so far have been pretty good, and we are making good progress. But with saturated soils, we may not make so much progress this week." Wednesday, fortunately, was clear.

About 70 percent of the S.C. crop had been transplanted when the rain started. "Most fields look good," says William Hardee, S.C. area Extension agronomy agent for Horry and Marion counties in the Pee Dee. "There was a little sunscald and wind damage." The soil temperature had been very high when the plants went in, but there were no real issues to this point. "It had been hot and dry in April, so the late April storms will come in handy if it doesn't rain too much," he says. "Once we get back in the field and cultivate, I think we are looking at a good crop." He calculated that contracts had been cut by 15 to 20 percent on conventional flue-cured and 40 to 50 percent on organic tobacco.

If you received some of this excess moisture, consider adjusting for leaching. Where rain fall exceeds two inches, Vann says, consider replacing 100 percent of all nitrogen applied to date. Where rainfall is less than two inches, consider replacing no more than 50 percent. Additional adjustments can be made closer to layby if needed, based on crop response. Apply one pound of potassium for every pound of nitrogen, says Vann. "Potassium is not as leachable as nitrogen and is typically applied at a 2:1 ratio. Therefore, adjusting at a 1:1 ratio will bring the nutrients back to the preferred balance."

Remember: Auxin herbicides and tobacco do not mix. The new technologies that will allow more extensive use of auxin herbicides on cotton and soybeans set the stage for potentially damaging contamination of tobacco plantings. Drift from wind during application of 2,4-D and dicamba can lead to physical contact. Both chemicals can also vaporize and spread to neighboring fields through volatilization.

Tobacco losses from auxin herbicides cannot be measured only in pounds per acre, says Vann. "There are also losses in marketing opportunities."  Auxin herbicides are not labeled for use in production of tobacco. "Therefore, if a drift event (physical or vapor) occurs, residues of a pesticide not labeled for production can be found on cured leaves."  The response from purchasers will certainly be negative.  

Words to remember: "It is my firm belief that the damage done to the reputation of U.S. tobacco because of illegal residues is much greater than the reduced leaf yield done through physical injury," says Vann.  

And it can be even worse for organic tobacco growers. "A drift event could jeopardize organic certification," Vann says. "It would likely require a three-year interval for organic re-certification."

One way you can help yourself: "Know your neighbors and be sure they know you," says Don Fowlkes, manager of agronomy, Burley Stabilization Corporation. "If you have a neighbor who has pastures and fence rows (or crop land) that might be sprayed, be sure they know the location of your tobacco fields. Visiting them ahead of time can go a long way toward preventing problems."

Correction: The company Contraf-Nicotex-Tobacco, which TFN identified in the last issue as a Brazilian company, is actually headquartered in Germany with activity in Brazil. It has recently associated itself with  United Tobacco Company.


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