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The Crop with a Million Enemies




In this week's North American Ag Spotlight Chrissy Wozniak dives deep into the world of flue-cured tobacco production with a true expert in the field, Dr. J Michael Moore, of the University of Georgia Tobacco Team. J Michael has dedicated his career to developing and implementing educational programs that guide farmers in producing high-quality tobacco. He collaborates closely with county Extension agents, researchers, and various agribusiness groups to deliver research-based recommendations, ensuring that Georgia farmers have the most up-to-date information at their fingertips. He coordinates a team of specialists, providing crucial knowledge on everything from production and harvesting to curing and marketing tobacco. He's the driving force behind the University of Georgia Tobacco Team and the visionary leader of the Georgia-Florida Tobacco Tour, which showcases the latest advancements in tobacco farming.


The Southeastern United States has a rich history rooted in agriculture, with tobacco playing a pivotal role in the region's economic and cultural landscape. The industry, particularly flue-cured tobacco, has seen significant advancements through the years, driven by dedicated professionals and innovative research. Flue-cured tobacco, primarily grown in Georgia and Florida, is known for its high quality and distinct curing process. The leaves are harvested and then cured using heat in a controlled environment, which helps develop the tobacco's characteristic flavor and aroma. This type of tobacco is commonly used in cigarette production, making it a crucial crop for the region's farmers.


Dr. Moore's role involves developing and implementing educational programs focused on producing and managing flue-cured tobacco. By working closely with county Extension agents, researchers, and agribusiness groups, Dr. Moore ensures that farmers receive sound, research-based recommendations. These recommendations cover various aspects of tobacco production, from planting and growing to harvesting and curing.


The UGA Tobacco Team

At the heart of these efforts is the University of Georgia Tobacco Team, which Dr. Moore coordinates. This team is instrumental in providing the most up-to-date and factual information on tobacco production. Their work includes everything from field trials and research studies to on-farm demonstrations and educational workshops. By bringing together specialists with diverse expertise, the UGA Tobacco Team supports agents and growers alike, fostering a community of knowledge and innovation.


The Georgia-Florida Tobacco Tour

One of the most notable initiatives led by Dr. Moore is the annual Georgia-Florida Tobacco Tour. This event showcases the latest research and advancements in tobacco farming, offering growers a firsthand look at new varieties and cultivation techniques. The 2024 tour includes multiple demonstration locations featuring thirteen released varieties grown in Georgia and Florida, as well as research test locations evaluating eleven varieties for black shank resistance. Attendees will also have the opportunity to see the evaluation of a new Orondis premix formulation, applied in transplant water for black shank control and phytotoxicity.


The tour not only provides valuable insights into tobacco farming but also fosters a sense of community among growers. With stops at various farms and facilities, including the Wetherington Farms green leaf boxing, curing, and cured leaf baling facility in Valdosta, participants can share experiences and learn from each other.


For those new to tobacco farming, understanding the basics of flue-cured tobacco production is essential. The process begins with selecting the right variety, tailored to the specific growing conditions of the Southeast. Farmers then prepare the soil, ensuring it is well-drained and rich in nutrients. Planting typically occurs in the spring, with greenhouse grown seedlings carefully transplanted to the field.


Throughout the growing season, farmers must manage pests and diseases, which can significantly impact yield and quality. Regular monitoring and the use of recommended agricultural practices help mitigate these risks. As the plants mature, the leaves are harvested in stages, starting from the bottom and moving upwards.


The curing process is critical to developing the tobacco's flavor. In flue-cured tobacco, leaves are placed in curing barns where they are exposed to controlled heat. This process, which can take several weeks, removes moisture from the leaves and allows the development of desirable characteristics.


The tobacco growing industry in the Southeast continues to thrive, thanks to the dedication and expertise of professionals like Dr. J Michael Moore. Through educational programs, research, and community initiatives, the industry is not only preserving its rich heritage but also embracing innovation to meet the challenges of modern agriculture. As farmers adopt new practices and technologies, the future of flue-cured tobacco in the region looks promising.



Learn more about the Georgia Florida Tobacco Tour at https://tobacco.caes.uga.edu/tours/2024-ga-fl-tobacco-tour.html



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