Pierce County Ga tobacco farmer Scott Strickland at the 2015 Georgia Tobacco Tour in early June

Pierce County, Ga., tobacco farmer Scott Strickland at the 2015 Georgia Tobacco Tour in early June.

Tobacco farmers worried about making grade, diseases

Pierce County, Ga., tobacco farmer Scott Strickland started planting April 13, around the time13 inches of rain fell in south Georgia, preventing growers from planting. Is Ridomil Gold as effective as it should be?

Pierce County, Ga., tobacco farmer Scott Strickland started planting April 13, around the time13 inches of rain fell in south Georgia, preventing growers from planting.

Then May brought drought conditions to the area.

During the week of the Georgia Tobacco Tour tobacco in early June, some growers started getting some much-needed rainfall while others didn’t.

“The rains came at the right time for (some of) us. It really changed the crop,” said Pierce County University of Georgia Extension agent James Jacobs.

In Appling County, Ga., grower Reid Turner started planting about the week of Easter. He set hard for about two weeks and got half of his crop in the ground. Then the rains started. He ended up waiting nearly two weeks before he could finish planting around the end of April. Yet, he wasn’t discouraged.

“We all noticed it might be a blessing in disguise because it’s been heavier tomato spotted wilt virus in our first planted than later planted,” he says. “Other than that, we’re just getting timely rainfall now.”

His biggest concern is not so much with excessive rainfall as what happens after harvest. “I hope I have a good crop,” he says, “and buyers will buy it this year. That’s our big concern right now is how picky the buyers are going to be. It’s just we’ve seen this drastic cut in poundage. How’s the crop going to be graded this year? I think anybody who’s worried, that’s their biggest worry this year.”

Ridomil vs. Presidio on black shank

Because black shank was such an issue with Georgia tobacco growers in 2014, growers wanted to know in 2015 if Ridomil Gold was as effective as it should be. State Cooperative Extension personnel decided to conduct some specific black shank control field trials.

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They chose four locations that all recorded a recent history of possibly Race 1 black shank on Ph gene varieties, says Paul Bertrand, a consulting plant pathologist on the 2015 Georgia Tobacco Tour, and who along with Extension agents conducted most of these trials. In all locations but one, the variety NC 196 was planted, and then K 326 was used in the other location.

They are comparing the effectiveness of the standard untreated check, the old standby Ridomil Gold and the new kid on the block Presidio. These scientists will evaluate the treatments in the transplant water and at layby. In the transplant water, they will apply four ounces per acre of Presidio and eight ounces per acre of Ridomil. At layby, they will look at four ounces per acre of Presidio and eight and 16 ounces per acre of Ridomil.

Although this year’s results weren’t conclusive during the tour, Bertrand says they took soil samples earlier from some of the fields that had black shank in 2014 and sent them to a lab at North Carolina State University. The results confirmed that “the effectiveness of Ridomil was not the problem,” he says. “The problem really was threefold in that we had a perfect storm; in that everything came together to really whack us last year.”

Bertrand saw the three problems in this way:

  1. Too much tobacco in one-year rotation or back-to-back rotation due to tobacco companies urging growers to plant more.
  2. Loss of tobacco personnel and economic resources at the University of Georgia. “The fact is: We’re about seven years behind on testing varieties for black shank resistance,” Bertrand says, “and we had fallen into the trap, which we knew was going to catch us eventually, of just using the North Carolina and South Carolina ratings. Typically, we can expect if the North Carolina ranking says it’s high resistance, it’s going to be moderate resistance here.”
  3. Too much rainfall causing Ridomil to wash away, and plants being infected quickly before they could uptake the Ridomil. Bertrand says in April 2014 rain fell everyday on the tobacco causing an above-average amount of rainfall for the entire month. “Once a plant is infected on the root system, even if it takes up Ridomil, the best you’re going to get is a slight delay in the time that plant dies,” he says. “You can’t cure plants with Ridomil. You have to protect them.”
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