It is important for flue-cured tobacco growers to exercise skill when selecting the best tobacco varieties for particular fields. With the cost of inputs getting higher and operating margins getting tighter, high yielding varieties that will work successfully for an operation are one of the most important considerations a grower will make during the production year.
David Reed, tobacco Extension agronomist at Virginia Tech University offers a number of tips that can help growers make better variety decisions. Find tips like these as well as a wide range of tobacco information in the university's Flue-Cured Tobacco Production Guide, available from your local Extension agent and on the Internet (see information below).
Tobacco growers would be wise to try out a new variety on limited acreage, Reed says, before adopting it across a large percentage of their production. They can see how they variety fares on their soil and under their growing conditions.
Growers should keep detailed field histories of varieties used in their fields. The information can be used to help them rate past varieties they've planted and compare that to the amount of disease encountered when it was planted.
Growers should learn to correctly identify tobacco diseases and/or get good assistance from someone with skill identifying these plant diseases. Reed notes a number of tobacco diseases can easily be confused, including Granville wilt, black shank and Pythium stalk rot. In addition there are other root diseases that can infect tobacco even though they are not as widespread as these widely-experienced diseases. Although they can attack tobacco in isolated cases, these lesser-known diseases are often not included in university plot tests. Nematodes can increase disease damage so that it becomes more serious than the grower might anticipate; nematodes can also alter the appearance of some disease symptoms.
Growers will find the results of some official variety trials in tables in the guide. Agronomic data is correlated by variety, yield per acre, relative yield and grade index. New varieties are in bold. Note, however, the 2012 Virginia Tech guide that is currently available on the Internet is about to be superseded by a newer version of the guide, due to be released in February.
When released the new guide should also be available online at the address above, or Virginia growers can contact their local county Extension agent to get the latest version.