South Carolina Tobacco: Freeze Injury in the Pee Dee

Freeze Injury 9

The ‘ninth hour’ freeze we experienced this past weekend is hopefully our last, but it didn’t end well for some of those that had already started transplanting tobacco. Some fields I observed are damaged to the extent that the field would need to be reset completely.

Others just needed to be walked over and re-pegged (replace the dead transplants).  Only a small percentage of our total tobacco acreage has been transplanted, however, this will turn out to be a costly incident for some.

The damage seemed to be worse on the light/sandy soils, which to me indicates that the cold/hard winds could have been a major contributor to the damage as well. In order to truly tell if the transplants would survive, we collected several transplants from random areas of the field and split the stalk to observe the bud and vascular tissue.

If either appeared brown or black, we knew that the damage was severe enough kill the transplant.

From our counts in each field we began to notice a trend that would help in identifying the status of each plant without having to split the stalk. We noticed that every transplant we thought would survive had at least one totally green, healthy looking leaf.

In order to test our theory we flagged 20 plants in the field that included 10 plants we thought would survive, and 10 that would not. It shouldn’t take long to find out. However, this strategy could help workers quickly identify which ones need to be re-pegged.

I spoke with another grower in our area that used a product called Vapor Gard (made by Miller Chemical and Fertilizer Corp), which is a water emulsifiable concentrate that reduces water transpiration (according to the label). According to the grower, his tobacco didn’t have nearly as much damage, and he thinks the product is what made the difference.

Although this could be an option in an emergency situation, its best not to risk transplanting tobacco until after the last freeze date has passed and the extended weather forecast is in your favor. Tobacco is a tough plant, but the weather can be rough on a new tender transplant coming out of a warm and cozy greenhouse.

Also, if you have to completely reset a field of tobacco, be aware of the herbicides you used. Re-bedding, re-shaping of beds or any means of soil movement could increase herbicide concentrations and ultimately stunt or kill new transplants.

If you need any assistance with these topics, contact your area agronomy agent.

This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied. Brand names of pesticides/products are given as a convenience and are neither an endorsement nor guarantee of the product nor a suggestion that similar products are not effective. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.

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