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Blue mold tobacco fungus is in 44 Kentucky counties
By TIM THORNBERRY
Kentucky Correspondent

LEXINGTON, Ky. — This year’s fight with blue mold continues for many state tobacco producers as the fungus has now been confirmed in at least 44 counties in Kentucky as of July 14.

According to the University of Kentucky (UK) Tobacco Disease Information website, the newest reports of blue mold have been confirmed in Anderson, Breathitt, Lincoln, Knox, Montgomery, Owen, Robertson and Washington counties.

The airborne disease has also been detected in Tennessee, southern Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

UK Plant Pathologist Kenny Seebolt said that even though the disease has spread, it is still manageable for most producers.

“On a positive note, blue mold is widespread but the level of severity is low-to-moderate in most cases,” he said. “I believe that most of our growers have been doing a very good job in controlling (it). The number of growers following a regular fungicide program is probably higher than it’s ever been (proportionally).”

Seebolt also said that, geographically, most of the state’s counties east of Interstate 65 have been exposed to the blue mold pathogen and the disease was present in those counties even if cases had not been reported.

UK Extension Agent Bryce Roberts said he thought it was just a matter of locating the disease in his county.

“We’ve been fortunate not to see it here in Spencer County, yet. There have been some blue mold finds in neighboring counties in the last few days so I figure that it is here. It’s just a matter of finding it,” said Roberts.

“I’ve been urging producers to apply the recommended protective fungicides to be on the safe side especially with last week’s daily rains.”

That rainy weather has given way to a heat wave, at least for the week according to the National Weather Service. The forecast called for temperatures in the mid to upper 90s with heat indices in the 100-105 F. range with little chance for rain until the weekend.

Seebold said that the worse cases of blue mold in the state this year so far have come at the hands of waiting too long to react or no action at all.

“For the most part, growers reporting serious damage from blue mold have not applied fungicides, have waited too late to begin applications, or have not applied fungicides in a timely and accurate manner,” he said. “Hopefully the hot and dry weather headed our way will help check the progress of ‘old blue’ for a while.”

Seebold added these bits of advice for producers.

“Given the forecasted weather, it’s advisable for growers to keep up with fungicide programs until we get to topping time. Experience has shown us that topping and good control of suckers helps to slow the progress of blue mold,” he said.

“Up to this point, timely applications of fungicide are critical to achieving good control. Ideally, any of the fungicides cleared for tobacco should be applied prior to the appearance of blue mold symptoms, or when symptoms first appear at the earliest. Control of blue mold becomes difficult, if not impossible; the longer fungicide applications are delayed after the onset of disease.”

For the latest blue mold information, visit the UK Tobacco Disease Information Page at www.uky.edu/Ag/kpn/kyblue/kyblue.htm

This farm news was published in the July 19, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

7/19/2006