Nutrient management will be even more critical in flue-cured tobacco this season because of frequent rains.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Agronomic Division offers a service to test for nitrogen and other nutrients in tobacco and other crops.

“If we continue to have leaching rains, tobacco farmers will need to know what nutrients to put back,” says Bobby Walls of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture Agronomic Division.

Plant tissue analysis can be used periodically throughout the season to monitor nitrogen other nutrients in tobacco. It is especially helpful when deciding whether to replace nitrogen, potassium and sulfur after leaching rains. Growers can use the plant tissue testing service for early season diagnostics or nutrient management after topping.

“As we get past topping time, we get into the time when nutrients can affect the quality of the cured leaf,” Walls says. Therefore, nitrogen content of leaf at harvest is a key.

The division analyzes the nutrient content of the leaf tissue. Growers who would like to determine ripeness of the crop can send in 12 to 15 leaf samples from the appropriate stalk position they are planning to harvest for testing about a week before harvest, Walls says.

The analysis shows the levels of nitrogen and various other nutrients in the leaf. Growers can then make nutrient and harvesting decisions using the information from plant-tissue analysis.

The cost of the analysis is $4 per sample. Walls recommends packaging the sample in paper and sending it to The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Agronomic Division, 4300 Reedy Creek Road, Raleigh, N.C. 27607. The information is also available at the department's Web site at www.ncagri.com/agronomi.

“This is going to be one of those years that it's going to take a lot of time and patience to get the crop in,” Walls says. “It's going to take a lot of management. We at the agronomic division have some services that might be helpful to tobacco growers this year particularly.”