Some people think of the winter as downtime for tobacco farmers. Actually it is not downtime at all, but a preparation time, as growers get ready for the next spring and summer growing season. Pitt County Extension director Mitch Smith has a few tips he communicates to growers, a "to-do" list, he says they don't want to neglect.
1) "Now is a great time to check your tobacco barns for heat exchanger cracks," Smith says. "Temperatures are cool right now, so growers don't run the risk of having problems with instrumentation getting too hot."
2) Discard old and worn out seeding trays. "We have seen that old trays contribute to Pythium and black root rot," Smith notes. "If you discard old trays you are positioning yourself for a better crop in 2013."
3) "Study Official Variety Trial (OVT) performance," Smith says. "The latest information for on-farm tests has just been released recently. Now is the time to really look at those numbers seriously and determine which varieties are above average and which varieties best fit your operation."
4) Smith notes N.C. Cooperative Extension puts out an important publication for tobacco growers in the winter, the Tobacco Information Guide. "From year to year we (Extension agents) don't talk to growers enough about reading that book," he says. "A lot of work goes into that publication and when a grower reads it he always picks up some new things. Spending time to do your homework will make you a better grower for 2013."
5) "The last thing I'll mention is something that everyone in Extension really wants," Smith says. "That is, we really want growers to come to county production meetings that we hold for our growers. It is a one-shot opportunity throughout the year. This is a time for growers to see what the new research really is and learn how to incorporate it into their operations."