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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The blue mold fungus attacking Tennessee’s tobacco crop could cost growers millions of dollars in lost profits for the second straight year, a University of Tennessee specialist said Friday.

“It’s too early to tell what the economic impact will be,” said Don Fowlkes of UT’s Agricultural Experiment Station.

Blue mold cost Tennessee farmers more than $3.6 million a year ago, and “the blue mold this year appears to be worse than last year,” Fowlkes said.

“The next two weeks, with tobacco maturing and the harvest beginning, are the most critical,” Fowlkes said.

Blue mold, which attacks tobacco leaves, is aggravated by continuous rain and cool temperatures.

“I’m more optimistic than pessimistic because we’ve had some pretty good weather the last few days,” Fowlkes said.

Contact: Don Fowlkes (423-974-7208)