Lee County Tobacco Notes

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As you all know, we are wet. This wet spell followed a very dry couple of weeks. I have spent a majority of the past 2 days walking tobacco fields in Lee and Western Harnett counties. I can tell you that the thrips counts are very high in most fields that I scouted. I am hearing reports from the I-95 corridor of heavy flea beetle pressure but have not seen much flea beetle pressure in our area thus far.

Thrips

Most growers used admire pro or platinum in furrow. Both of these options are good for thrips control, however, it appears that the very dry weather soon after transplanting followed by 7 inches of rain has greatly reduced the amount of in-furrow insecticide that the plant has taken up. I attribute this to two factors. 1. Poor growing conditions, causing slow to no root growth, thus not having the ability to reach all of the in-furrow insecticide. 2. The greatly reduced growing conditions and slow growing plants have outlasted the platinum or admire-pro.

These factors have caused the thrip pressure to be very high. I have attached a

Tobacco Leaf with Thrips

Tobacco Leaf with Thrips

picture to show a leaf with typical thrip numbers over the past two days.

I have discussed options with several sales reps and Dr.’s Matthew Vann and Hannah Barrack. NC State University is recommending an over the top application of Admire Pro. This is a good option in my opinion. Admire Pro has activity on flea beetles and thrips and it is an economical choice for early season. Going with the numbers of thrips that I am seeing, 10+ per plant, I would use the higher rate, 1.4 oz/ac. Another option is Acephate or Orthene. This is also a very economical choice with the recommended rate of 0.5 oz/ac with a 97% product.

There are several other options which will also give you excellent worm control, as well as flea beetles and thrips, for several weeks. Depending on when we can get back into the field, we may want to think about budworms if the numbers start spiking.

I feel very strongly that a thrips application as soon as we can get into the field will help this crop almost immediately. If we can give the plant some relief from thrips, as well as some dry weather and a little sunshine, we will finally be off and running for the season.

Please note, if making an orthene application, try to allow at least four hours before rain. Work done by Dr. Angus Catchot at Mississippi State in 2011 showed that 4-8 hours of drying time before a rainfall event gives the best thrips control with orthene.

Finally, I would like to include an email from Dr. Matthew Vann concerning tobacco fertilizer.

Good Afternoon Everyone-

As the recent weather system begins to exit the state it is very probable that we will have to make leaching adjustment recommendations for most of our tobacco farmers. Before posting anything on the Tobacco Portal, I’m sending a few of my thoughts for you to share as you see fit. 

First, this event was one that I consider to be a major rainfall event for the tobacco belt. If you look at the map that I’ve attached to this email, you will see that most of the state received anywhere from two to eight plus inches of rain over the last three to four days. We needed a good inch or two in most places, clearly we got more than that.

Second, for those that were with us in 2017 you might remember a similar event that played out around April 24th and 25th. In that particular event, we very consistently received two to seven inches of rain over a 24-30 hour window. These events are similar in that they were slow, soaking rains that did not produce a lot of runoff, until we reached field capacity. What this means is that water infiltration and percolation through the soil were greater than if we’d gotten most of this rain in a shorter period of time. From a larger perspective, these are situations where water movement downward through the soil profile is likely to leach some of the nitrogen and potassium fertilizer that was recently applied to crops. 

Third, at this point I am very hesitant to paint our current situation with a broad brush. We were lucky to be able to do this with the situation we had in 2017. I’ve spoken with a few of you that aren’t terribly concerned about fertilizer losses (you’re on the low end of the rainfall spectrum – and needed it badly) and others that may have to make substantial guesses as to what farmers should do. One comment I’ll make is that fertilizer leaching adjustment recommendations are extremely difficult and are essentially an educated guess, as there are so many factors to consider – few of which we can actually measure or quantify. From what I see today, I expect that growers along Highway 64 and some parts of 264 in the east and those along I-40 and north in the Old belt might consider re-applying 10 to 15 pounds of nitrogen. We’re fortunate that the heavier rain fell in areas that aren’t terribly flat and that have medium to fine soil texture, so runoff and percolation are going to help everyone. There are exceptions to this estimate, so don’t run me out of Raleigh if I’m way off in your local area.

Fourth, there’s no need to re-apply homogenized or blended fertilizer sources. Producers should focus on fertilizer products that are nitrogen only or a combination of nitrogen and potassium. In addition, most of our potassium fertilizers will contain enough sulfur and/or magnesium to address any shortcomings that growers might express concern about. My rule of thumb is that sandier soils could benefit from K-Mag (0-0-22-11Mg-22S) and that finer soil types might consider using potassium sulfate (0-0-50).

I hope this information helps you navigate these difficult circumstances.