November 29, 2006 | By: Aimee Nielson

With nearly all the 2006 Kentucky tobacco crop in the barn, growers are now focusing on getting the crop processed and to market. However, even with their hands full over the next few weeks, growers need to start thinking about getting a head start on disease management for next year’s crop.

University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Plant Pathologist Kenny Seebold said 2006 was a rough year in terms of heavy rains and a sizeable blue mold outbreak, problems which could carry over to next year without proper planning.

“It’s hard to say what next year’s biggest problem will be,” he said. “But growers can take some steps now that will go a long way toward minimizing disease problems in the float bed and with black shank in the field.”

Seebold said the first thing that comes to mind with disease management is sanitation. Many diseases in the float bed system and in the field survive between seasons on equipment and plant residues, he warned.

“Growers should clean and sanitize transplant houses and outdoor beds now to cut down on overwintering populations of pathogens,” he said. “Remove and burn or bury old plant debris and trash from structures, and make sure to carefully clean and sanitize transplant trays.”

Tobacco growers also can take steps to prepare fields, especially where black shank was present. Seebold recommends turning in all debris as quickly as possible after harvest.

“Keep in mind that the black shank pathogen can survive very well on tobacco stalks,” he said. “If you leave stalks in the field, you’re just setting up the perfect environment for future disease outbreaks and more problems down the road. If growers plow under crop residues now, you’ll have more time for soil microbes to break down plant matter, and that will have a great impact on reducing the pathogens’ survival over the winter.”

Another thing for growers to think about between tobacco crops is rotation. Seebold believes there is no better way to manage diseases such as black shank than to rotate with non-related crops that are do not act as hosts for the disease.

“In general two- to three-year rotations away from tobacco and related crops like tomato have the greatest impact on soilborne diseases,” he said. “But even one-year rotations can dramatically cut down on disease. Even though we are many months from planting, growers really need to start the planning process, make field choice decisions and decide on potential rotation crops.”

Seebold emphasized that successful management of 2007 diseases begins with careful planning at the end of the 2006 season.

“It seems like a long time off, but planting time will be here before you know it,” he stressed. “Take time now to build a strong foundation for a successful disease management program in your tobacco crop.”


Kenny Seebold, 859-257-7445, ext. 80721