August 12, 2005 | By: Laura Skillman

Tobacco can take the dry weather and the heat in short spurts but it cannot take what 2005 has decided to dish out.

“I was optimistic until recently,” said Gary Palmer, a tobacco specialist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. 

Lack of rain and high temperatures have plagued the growing season. The tobacco crop started to suffer the week of July 4. About a week later, Hurricane Dennis brought some rain into the state, but the amounts were mixed. Prior to and after Dennis, only scattered showers have made their way into the state.

“You can’t depend on scattered showers,” Palmer said. “Very few people benefit from that.”

Most tobacco fields are feeling the affects of drought. The moisture stress is also helping add to some disease problems, such as black shank, which is a fungus that lives in the soil and obstructs a plant’s water uptake. The disease has been seen across the state and is “just horrendous,” Palmer said. Ridomil, the normal line of defense against black shank, is a highly water-soluble chemical that needs soil moisture to work and may not be effective during a drought, he said.

On the other hand, blue mold, another disease that can be highly destructive to tobacco, has not been as widespread this year. It has been discovered in 12 Kentucky counties, but the risk of a widespread problem from the disease is unlikely unless weather patterns change, said Kenny Seebold, plant pathologist with the UK College of Agriculture.

The recent hot days and nights have essentially removed favorable conditions for the mold to become widespread. Cooler nights and sporadic rains may provide for localized outbreaks, but it will take a week of cloudy, drizzly conditions for a possibility of a more widespread problem.

Farmers who have blue mold or are in areas of close proximity to the disease are being advised to treat their crop to protect it from disease damage.

The first discovery of blue mold this growing season in the United States was found in Hardin County. Since then, it has been found in Fayette, Daviess, Harrison, Breckinridge, Clinton, Grant, Larue, Adair, Monroe, Barren and Owsley counties. It has also been reported in a number of other tobacco-growing states.

Palmer said once the tobacco is harvested, weather will also play a factor in the crop’s curing. While you can’t make a poor crop in the field a better crop after it’s cured, poor curing conditions can further degrade a crop’s quality.



Writer: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278

Contact: Gary Palmer, 859-257-8667
Kenny Seebold, 859-257-7445 ext. 80721