Just When You Thought The Tobacco Crop Was Over

As much as you may dread investing anything more into this year’s tobacco crop, you may want to consider a few things that still must be done to ensure proper disease management. With new fumigation regulations and continually rising labor and fuel costs, you’ve got to do all you can to get the most out of your tobacco fields. Proper postharvest field management, rotation, and variety selection are all very necessary disease management tactics. For now I am mostly going to stress post harvest field management.

Soil-borne diseases can hang around quite a while if you leave behind enough material for them to live on.  One of the best things that you could do after harvest is cut the stalks as fine as you can and then turn over the roots. Not only will this kill the plants and reduce the amount of time the disease has to spread, but also makes for smaller debris for the diseases and nematodes to feed and hibernate in. The sooner this debris decomposes, the sooner that you will see a decline in these disease and nematode pests in the fields. There will always be some presence of these diseases if tobacco or similar crops have been present in the field, but the goal is to get the populations low enough that when you return tobacco to that field that the disease cannot overwhelm the crop before harvest.

Nematodes: sample in the fall after you harvest your preceding crop. It’s important to sample soon after the crop has been harvested to get accurate results. If your report indicates that you have a nematode problem, make plans to either avoid that field or treat with a fumigation product. Nematodes create two problems in tobacco. First, they reduce yield. Secondly, nematodes make your tobacco crop more susceptible to disease. The sandier fields that we like to put tobacco on are very prone to high nematode populations.

Weeds are another thing that we need to be thinking about after a field has finished harvest. Weeds don’t only leave seed behind for next year, but they can also be another host for some of the same diseases that your tobacco is susceptible to. Granville Wilt and many nematodes will gladly survive on many of the weeds that you can find in your fields this time of the year.

These are some basic things that we can do, and many already do, to help reduce disease, weed, and nematode problems in our tobacco fields. I know many of you don’t want to spend another penny on tobacco after this year, but we’ve got to bite the bullet and do the best we can so that our next crop stands a chance to make a good yield.

Keith Kettner
Extension Agent

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