August 21, 2002 | By: Laura Skillman

Western Kentucky farmers had a chance recently to see firsthand some of the tobacco research being conducted through a unique collaboration between three universities.

Five acres of tobacco, both dark and burley, are being grown at Murray State University as part of a joint project between the University of Kentucky, University of Tennessee and Murray State. The efforts are under the direction of Bob Miller, a tobacco specialist with a joint appointment from UK and UT. Miller works from UK’s Lexington campus.

“The addition of Murray gives us a tremendous boost we haven’t had before with western dark fire-cured tobacco,” Miller told farmers at a recent field day.

This site, in use for the second year, allows for research to be conducted in the heart of the dark fire-cured growing area, he said. In addition, research plots also are grown in Princeton and Lexington, and at Springfield, Tenn.

Irrigation use is one area of research being conducted at Murray. Varying rates have been applied to tobacco along with test strips that received no irrigation. Miller noted that being able to irrigate gives farmers the advantage of more even yields year after year.

“The value in it is the constancy,” he said.

In dark tobacco, which is grown on acreage allotments, use of irrigation can quickly pay for itself, Miller said.Irrigation allows growers to maximize yields. That’s important today as more and more farmers are contracting their tobacco crop by the pound.

“People in the Bluegrass area that have not been able to irrigate are worrying about having enough pounds to fill their contracts,” Miller said.

Miller, who is a tobacco breeder, is also conducting breeding research at several locations. He said he expects to release a new line of dark tobacco within a year that will have better blank shank resistance.

Efforts also will continue to improve the resistance to black root rot.The goal of the breeding program, Miller said, is to develop a tobacco that is high yielding, high quality and high in blank shank and black root rot resistance.

“This site is a tremendous addition to our program,” he said.


Bob Miller, 859-257-4727