What is in this article?:
- Wet summer taught tobacco growers some new nitrogen fertilization lessons
- Applied liquid nitrogen
- Problem with curing
• The decision to apply supplemental nitrogen to make up for losses from leaching — and how much to apply — is one of the most difficult and risky tasks in tobacco production.
THIS FIELD near Broadway, N.C., received heavy rains that leached out fertilizer. But the grower elected not to add any supplemental nitrogen. The result? A washed-out plant that was ready for final harvest when this picture was taken on Aug. 7.
Applied liquid nitrogen
On one 15-acre field, Quarles sprayed liquid nitrogen underneath the leaves and directly onto the soil using a high clearance sprayer with drop nozzles.
"It was a lot of extra work. I had to re-rig the sprayer. But the leaf colored back up afterward," he said.
He thinks burley fields may not actually have lost as much nitrogen as it initially appeared.
“I think the roots suffocated immediately after the rains. The crop looked bad. But the roots started growing again two to three weeks later, and it began looking better," said Quarles.
But the leaf in the Bluegrass was generally on the thin side, he said, and perhaps 10 percent of poundage in the Bluegrass was lost due to rainfall. "But that is much improved from what we expected a month ago," he said. "If we can just get it into the barn, I think we will be all right."
Not all growers were assured of making it. “Some larger growers were way behind schedule and had been since they were forced to start transplanting late because of the rains,” said Quarles.
“If conditions don’t improve, these farmers may run out of time to get their tobacco cut and hung.”
Like most individuals involved in tobacco, North Carolina Extension Tobacco Specialist Loren Fisher said he sincerely hopes a fertility situation as suffered in 2013 never occurs again.
But he feels there are two application lessons to be learned from this crop:
• Applying liquid nitrogen directly on the soil with a drop line gives a quicker response than if you apply it by running it down the stalk.
• There is a definite benefit to applying nitrogen in multiple small applications rather than one big one. If nothing else, it gives you the flexibility of not making later applications if you don't need them.
Fisher hopes, however, that one old lesson won't be forgotten. "Don't go into the 2014 season with the idea of increasing your pre-plant nitrogen application,” he said.
“We are just as likely — maybe more likely — to have a dry summer rather than a wet one, and you don't want excess nitrogen to turn your tobacco green late in the season.”