KNOXVILLE, Tenn.– A mold threatening Tennessee’s burley tobacco crop has turned up in four more counties and more cases probably have gone unreported, a University of Tennessee plant specialist said Friday.
Dr. Donald Fowlkes of the UT Extension Service said blue mold was confirmed this week in Williamson, Claiborne, Grainger and Hancock counties.
The first confirmed Tennessee case of blue mold this year was reported two weeks ago in Maury County, adjacent to Williamson in Middle Tennessee.
Fowlkes said overcast skies and rain have created ideal conditions for the growth and spread of blue mold.
“It is in a lot more counties than have been reported,” Fowlkes said. “Part of the reason we don’t have more reports is because it has been so wet, people haven’t been out checking.”
Fowlkes said burley tobacco anywhere in the state should be considered at high risk for the mold, which damages or kills the plant.
Claiborne, Grainger and Hancock are in East Tennessee, which until this week had reported no blue mold.
Burley growers should already be treating their crops with fungicides, whether the plants are in the field, beds or greenhouses, Fowlkes said.
“I don’t want to minimize the use of fungicides, which are critical now, but what we need more than anything are bright, sunny days,” Fowlkes said.
Regarding the use of the fungicide Ridomil, Fowlkes said that in Hancock County the chemical had been sprayed on the tobacco in the bed and in the field, but plants still developed the mold.
“I’m using that as a basis to assume that the blue mold is probably Ridomil resistant, at least in those cases,” Fowlkes.
Ridomil has been very effective controlling blue mold, but researchers have found some strains have developed resistance to the treatment.
In Hancock County, blue mold has been confirmed in 11 tobacco beds and three fields, Fowlkes said.
Contact: Dr. Donald Fowlkes (413-974-7208)