For crops, rain is a good thing, right? Lately, Southern tobacco farmers might disagree. As of August 2014, the Southeast as a whole received about 10 inches more rain than average this year. While dealing with an excess of water drenching tobacco fields can be quite challenging, experts share strategies that can help protect crops and save yield.
Excessive rainfall over the past two years varied from one location to another. In North Carolina, spotty patches of rain left some farmers with 13 inches of rain over a two-week timespan, while their neighbors a few miles down the road received only three inches.
How does too much rain affect tobacco plants? Regional Agronomist for NCDA & CS Don Nicholson says excessive rain can be detrimental. “Tobacco doesn’t like ‘wet feet,’ or saturated roots,” Nicholson explains.
Compared to the deep, organic soil of the Midwest, East Coast soil is light and sandy. With its lighter composition, the soil is not able to hold onto nutrients as well. And because soil and most nutrients are made up of positively charged ions—called cations—they end up repelling each other just like two of the same magnet poles. With an excessive amount of rain, the effect worsens.
Extra water ends up leaching much-needed nutrients from the soil. Consequently, the roots of the tobacco plant cannot reach down in the soil far enough to pick up the remaining nutrients, and plants are left malnourished.
When plants are starved for nutrients, they become weak and vulnerable to disease. “Even with disease-resistant varieties of seed, plants are not immune to disease, especially in a fragile state,” Nicholson explains.
To read the whole story, go to the digital edition.