The 2013 season was a rare one indeed for tobacco farmers. There was so much rain over so long a period that it seemed that no amount of supplemental nitrogen was too much. Flue-cured grower David Etheridge of Broadway, N.C., applied enough supplemental nitrogen to be a significant cost factor, but he has no regrets.

“I wouldn't have made much tobacco without it,” he said in May. “There's no doubt about it. I more than made my money back from every pound of supplemental nitrogen I put out.”

But now we are in another year and another season, and agronomists say farmers should put the 2013 fertility experience out of their minds.

“We don't want our farmers using 2013 as a yardstick for 2014,” said Don Nicholson, regional agronomist with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. “It is easy to over-fertilize when supplementing nitrogen.”

The program he recommends is to put out something dry, like ammonium sulfate (21-0-0-24) mixed with KMag/Sul-Po-Mag (0-0-22-22), to meet the sulfur needs and some of the nitrogen needs. Then make up the remainder of the nitrogen requirements with 24S or liquid urea as needed.

“I strongly discourage applying too much nitrogen at one time,” he said.

Etheridge buys all of his nutrients from FCI of Raeford, N.C., and gets much of his fertility advice from FCI's representative, David Dycus, along with a lot of help from Nicholson.