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Agriculture & Natural Resources

Wet weather woes

I recently heard that local experts are starting to study that big yellow ball that magically appeared in the sky this week. It seems to by drying out the soil, providing some heat, and shouldn’t be directly looked at. With all of the rain that we had, there have been many obstacles to overcome trying to get crops in out of the field. Worry with corn is that I have heard some instances where the kernels are starting to sprout on the cob, and could cause concern for mycotoxins, molds and other ear rots to develop. Soybeans are also swelling and shattering, resulting in yield loss. However, tobacco is much more complicated with leaf loss in the field, and house-burn and barn rot occurring on what is already hung in the barn.

Bacterial stem and stalk infections are the primary culprit for leaf loss in the field. Some standing crops have had over a 50 percent leaf loss. Others have seen bottom leaves particularly suffer from many leaf diseases, but primarily frogeye and target spot. Unfortunately, these two diseases like the humid/wet weather we had in September and there is not much we can do at this point to alleviate it. Even fields with timely fungicide applications have seen disease pressure due to the delayed harvest.

A quick harvest will be the most effective way to minimize further field losses. Understanding that labor shortages and periods of rain have been a key reason many fields have not been harvested already, it will be important to get this crop in as quickly as possible.

For crops recently put in the barn, house-burn and barn rot are the primary concern. I have already heard of barns with tobacco rotting off the stick and falling in the barn, as well as the strong, unpleasant odor associated with that. Many questions have arisen about using anti-strutt compounds to help fight the rot issue. These sulfur-based compounds are burned and claimed to enhance leaf wilt and potentially inhibit microbial activity. While this was a common practice many years ago, there has not been evidence that these compounds actually have a significant impact on reducing rot in burley tobacco barns.

The most effective management practice for growers is to keep the air circulating as much as possible. Opening all doors and ventilators along with the use of fans throughout the entire barn (not just at the door) can be effective at circulating air and reducing barn rot.

Mold may also be developing on tobacco that is nearing the end of curing. Encouraging air movement is the best defense against the spread and development of molds. Growers and workers may wish to take steps to protect themselves from inhaling spores as a result of handling moldy tobacco. For more information on working with moldy tobacco, or reducing house-burn and barn rot, contact the Woodford County Extension Service at 873-4601.

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