Branton adds that he had written off the transplants he bought from Blake and was really concerned about where he would find enough transplants so late in the planting season to finish out his crop. Not filling contracts is a big problem for any farmer, but losing the confidence of tobacco buyers is a virtual kiss of death in the highly competitive tobacco business.

Being a small acreage farmer, it was a leap of faith for Branton to risk so much of his crop on a product he knew very little about, but he did it.

In 2011, he planted 165 acres of tobacco and a couple hundred acres of wheat, soybeans and corn. Other than some migrant labor, Branton farms the 700 acres or so by himself. Staying small requires some careful planning and losing a greenhouse full of tobacco plants definitely wasn’t part of his farm plan for 2011.

The key to staying profitable in tobacco farming, he stresses, is growing a quality crop. Typically, he shoots for 2,400 to 2,500 pounds per acre.  “Some years we grow more per acre, but on our land getting 2,500 pounds per acre and keeping quality up is a good crop,” the North Carolina grower says.

Glen Howard applied the last two of three total applications of Quick-Sol on Branton’s 12 acre tobacco field. After the last spray he told Branton he left enough material in his sprayer to spray an acre. “I needed to spray some hail-damaged tobacco, so I needed the sprayer, but didn’t have anywhere to use it on tobacco,” Branton recalls.

“I had a field of soybeans right behind my house, so I sprayed it on outside rows, the side nearest to my house. Within five days I was walking across my back yard and noticed something different about the soybeans. I could see where the sprayer had stopped and the beans I had sprayed were 6-8 inches taller than the other beans,” the veteran North Carolina farmer says.

In July Speros came back to the Branton farm to harvest the Quick-Sol tobacco fields. “I told him about the soybeans, and we walked out in the field and pulled up a plant from the treated rows and one from the untreated rows, and I was amazed at how much bigger root system the treated plants had,” Branton says.

Subsequently, Branton says he has watched the soybean crop throughout the summer and fall. By November, the material had spread out into the soil and it was clear to see a richer brown color to the soybeans that had been sprayed and the color faded out to 50 feet or so, where the material moved in the soil.

At that time, Speros pulled up two more soybean plants and made the sprayed versus unsprayed comparison. “The root system was even more developed and noticeable much larger than the untreated beans,” Branton says.