As his mechanical harvester reached the end of his last row of tobacco late in the afternoon of Oct. 12, Randy Edwards of Wendell, N.C., breathed a sigh of relief that his tobacco variety — K 326 — has excellent holding ability.

That is, it can hold its weight and quality for an extended period of time after the point of optimum maturity.

That was just what flue-cured growers like Edwards needed in a season like 2010. The intense heat and sporadic drought delayed the maturity of much of the crop, especially in Virginia and North Carolina. Farmers were forced to keep harvesting much longer after the point of optimum maturity than they normally would, and much of the crop wasn’t harvested until well into October, which is quite late.

In this situation, K 326 came in very handy.

“If it lives, K 326 is an excellent tobacco in October,” said Edwards. “It holds a lot better on a later crop like this one.”

Unfortunately, K 326 has a drawback: It has almost no disease resistance, and none to black shank. “Sometimes it seems that K 326 has to go on land that hasn’t had tobacco on it for 30 years!” Edwards joked. “Seriously, you need a lot of rotation and a low level of disease, and even then, you still have to use Ridomil and a multi-purpose fumigant. So we need alternatives to K 326.”

There are some good candidates. Edwards likes NC 196 because of its good disease resistance package and high yield and quality. And itsholding ability is very close to K 326, he said.