Tobacco Research

tobacco cropBacterial Wilt

Pee Dee REC faculty are looking for ways to help farmers combat bacterial wilt, a serious disease in temperate and tropical regions of the world.  Ralstonia solanacerum, the casual organism of bacterial wilt reduces yields up to 8% in South Carolina's tobacco crop each year.  Significant research findings at Clemson University on bacterial wilt include:

  • Discovery of the gene mutation in Ralstonia solanacerum that makes it a pathogen of tobacco
  • Association of mechanization in topping and harvesting with the spread of bacterial wilt on tobacco
  • Design a new bacterial wilt topping system that eliminates mechanical transmission of the bacterium during flower removal
  • Development of an integrated management system to reduce losses to this significant disease
  • Modification of harvester design to reduce transmission during the leaf removal process
For more information contact Dr. Bruce Fortnum.

Energy Conservation in Curing

There is tremendous need for educational efforts to improve curing efficiency through improving burner efficiency, better insulation, and improving overall curing management.  Research conducted at Clemson University has quantified the increases in efficiency that can be expected by using automated airflow systems and improving barn insulation.  Careful management of the curing process can attain significant savings. 

For additional information contact Dr. Dewitt Gooden.

Tobacco Pest Management

Tobacco production can be substantially limited by insect pests in South Carolina. Research is investigating the use of safer and fewer insecticides to control major worm pests (tobacco hornworm, tobacco budworm and tobacco splitworm). In addition, research is being conducted on tomato spotted wilt (TSWV), a serious disease which has caused up to 20% yield loss in recent years in South Carolina on tobacco. TSWV is vectored by selected thrips species (Thysanoptera: Thripidae), including the tobacco thrips, Frankliniella fusca (Hinds), and the western flower thrips, F. occidentalis (Pergande). Although many insecticides are toxic to thrips, most do not kill thrips quickly enough to prevent transmission of the TSWV, which can occur in 5 to 10 minutes. Because of major potential yield loss caused by TSWV, many tobacco growers in South Carolina currently use tray drench applications of imidacloprid or thiamethoxam to suppress the disease.

Previous work at NCSU has demonstrated that the greatest reduction TSWV can be obtained by using imidacloprid and Actigard (a plant defense activator), with the most effective time to apply Actigard varying with year and location depending when the spring flight of tobacco thrips and spread of TSWV occur. Mathematical models have been developed at NCSU by S. Shannon and co-workers to predict using weather data the relative size and timing of the spring tobacco thrips flight and the relative magnitude of TSWV spread into the crop. Current research is building on the work conducted at NCSU by verifying models to predict thrips flights and conducting field trials to verify and refine timing of Actigard applications for the state of South Carolina.

For information regarding tobacco pest management, contact Dr. Francis Reay-Jones.

For more information regarding Clemson Extension's accepted tobacco farming practices, click here.