Tobacco growers learning to manage planting, harvesting

AFP Correspondent

(May 5, 2015) In the fall, especially in a year with a late crop, tobacco growers can be pushed for barn room while plants wither away in the field.
A grower in Virginia has learned to manage his plantings so his harvests don’t fall so closely together, weather permitting, of course.
In 2014, David Trujillo, the farm manager on R. Hart Hudson Farms in Mecklenburg County, Va., planted early and late-maturing varieties so he could spread out his planting, topping and harvesting.
He plants CC 65 and NC 299, both from Cross Creek Seed Co., and NC 196 and GL 395, both from GoldLeaf Seed Co.
Trujillo plants NC 196 because it matures quickly, and he can harvest it before his other varieties ripen in the field.
NC 196 gives him the opportunity to house a few barns of tobacco and receive payment while the rest of his varieties are waiting patiently in the field without the leaves overripening.
According to the North Carolina Crop Improvement Association, NC 196 is a hybrid flue-cured variety that is resistant to Race 0 black shank and has moderate resistance to Race 1 black shank.
It also has moderate resistance to bacterial wilt and is resistant rootknot nematodes and tobacco cyst nematode.
“I plant CC 65 because that tobacco holds in the field and is a non-flowering variety,” he says. “One of the reasons I use that is it will not push me for the topping part. I will have something to turn around and come back without losing weight in my plant.”
Some disease resistance is offered. CC 65 has high resistance to Race 0 black shank and medium resistance to Race 1 black shank, according to Cross Creek Seed.
It is resistant to rootknot nematodes. However, it is susceptible to tobacco mosaic virus and potato virus Y. In addition, it has low resistance to Granville wilt.
NC 299 is a hybrid flue-cured variety that has high resistance to Race 0 black shank, according to the North Carolina Crop Improvement Association. This variety has very low resistance to Granville wilt; however, it is resistant to potato virus Y and tobacco etch virus. He plants NC 299 to help with black shank control.
One of the varieties Trujillo really likes is GL 395. “What I like about it is that it will hold in the field a little longer,” he says, “and especially I will say, with a mid- to large-tobacco grower it is important to have a tobacco plant that will hold a little bit in order for you to plan your harvest because you don’t want everything to come in at one time.”
Hold ability is so good that he believes it will hold as good in the field as the longtime popular variety K 326 which is known for its hold ability.
GL 395 has not been on the market very long. “We tested out GL 395 with 50 growers in 2013,” says GoldLeaf Seed sales manager Gordon Johnson, “and sold GL 395 for the first time in 2014. Many growers have found it to have excellent holding ability late into the season, which helps growers manage their barns late into the season.”
Trujillo, and farm owners Hart and Glenn Hudson, tried an estimated four to five acres of GL 395 in 2012, and in 2013 they planted around 50 acres.
However, in 2014, they increased this variety significantly, growing an estimated 130 to 140 acres.
Harvest ability with a harvester or by hand is very good, Johnson says, and GL 395 produces excellent leaf quality and curability. “Through grower comments it appears that the leaf companies like the cured leaf of GL 395,” he says.
Trujillo says GL 395 can cure a light color as well as an orange color, depending on how the grower manages his cure, and what cold or hot weather conditions are like during the growing season. For Trujillo, 2014 was a wet year in his area, especially in the spring and early summer. He says from April 7 to July 10, they had almost 12 inches of rain, and eight inches of that was in June.
GL 395 does not contain the Ph gene for Race 0 black shank but instead gets its resistance from another source. As a result, GL 395 has good tolerance to both Race 0 and Race 1 black shank. “At GoldLeaf, we believe that GL 395 can be used by growers in fields that have heavier pressure to black shank and Granville wilt,” Johnson says.
Additionally, this variety has moderate resistance to Granville wilt, resistance to rootknot nematodes, and tolerance to brown spot. Trujillo appreciates the impressive disease package. “You’re always in a search that will help your tobacco to survive,” he says. “You will treat it almost like a K 326, but it will live better because it has some resistance.”
Trujillo deals some with both black shank and Granville wilt and is able to manage those.
Of course with all the rainfall, disease was greater, especially with hollow stalk, which caused some losses. “We lost more to that than black shank or Granville wilt combined, especially with fields saturated with water,” he says.
Nonetheless, he believes growers need to rely on other production measures besides varieties so they can form a combined approach or solution that involves resistant varieties, rotation, fumigation and other methods.
He said the NC 196 yielded the best for him in 2014, then GL 395, followed closely by CC 65. Of course, he emphasizes, yield depends a great deal on rainfall, how late a grower gets to the field to harvest, and other factors.
Because of its good holding ability, GL 395 was the last he harvested.