- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Dr. Bob Pearce, tobacco specialist at the University of Kentucky, recently released an email in an effort to make tobacco producers aware of a significant change made by the Risk Management Agency in the special provisions for tobacco federal crop insurance effective in 2013. The following statement appears in the “Special Provisions of Insurance” 2013 and Succeeding Years for Burley Tobacco:
“Tobacco will not be insurable on any acreage planted to tobacco in the two (2) previous crop years.”
According to Pearce, this statement apparently applies to all tobacco types nationwide. RMA is attempting to address issues where lack of rotation contributes to increased risk of crop losses, mainly because of disease issues. The question has been asked about how this fits in with what University of Kentucky Extension recommends. The language in the UK Tobacco Production Guide (ID-160) is based on scientific evidence and experience as to the best management practices for tobacco production.
The guide was, and is, intended to be used by growers to help them make informed production decisions and was not intended to be used to set policy decisions. We all know growers can be successful growing tobacco in third and succeeding seasons if they take appropriate management steps such as resistant varieties, fungicide use and cover crops. But with this interpretation by RMA, such crops no longer would be eligible for crop insurance.
It is important for growers to understand that this is a decision made by RMA and not Extension or any university.
Here is how the crop rotation section of the UK Tobacco Production Guide (ID-160) reads:
“The benefit of crop rotation for reducing certain diseases is well known (see Pest Management section); however, rotation also has significant agronomic benefits. The ideal rotation for tobacco in Kentucky and Tennessee would be one in which tobacco is grown on a specific site for no more than two years in a row, after which a sod or sod/legume crop is planted and maintained for at least four years before returning to tobacco production. The advantage of this rotation is that the sod crop helps restore the organic matter and soil structure lost during tobacco production. Unfortunately, many tobacco growers do not have sufficient land resources to maintain a rotation of this length. Shorter rotations away from tobacco are very beneficial from a disease standpoint and at least slow the degradation of soil structure compared to continuous tobacco production. Some rotation, even if it is short, is better than no rotation.
“Rotation to other row crops such as corn or soybean also CAN be beneficial to tobacco, but less so than a rotation which includes sod crops. In row-crop rotations, precautions should be observed to minimize the potential carryover of herbicides and adhere to rotational guidelines on pesticide labels. A reduction in corn yields following tobacco has been reported by some growers. Herbicide carryover has also become an increasing concern in rotations with sod in recent years, with the introduction of a number of pasture herbicides containing picloram or aminopyralid. Brand names of these herbicides include Grazon, Surmount, Milestone, and Forefront. Tobacco should not be planted in fields which have had aminopyralid applied in the previous two years. For picloram the period of time needed before planting tobacco is longer and not well defined. Basically picloram should not be applied to land that is ever intended to be a part of a tobacco rotation, and tobacco should not be planted in a field with any known history of picloram application until test plants have been grown in the soil for a few weeks and observed for injury symptoms. See the label for other restrictions and information.”
Growers also should be aware the new Tobacco Industry Good Agricultural Practices program, which is being adopted by most tobacco companies, often refers growers to their state’s “tobacco production guide” for approved practices on a variety of topics.
Please know that the University of Kentucky tobacco specialist group is doing everything they can to ensure the guides remain a useful tool for growers without becoming an unnecessary burden.
Matt Adams is a Hardin County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources.