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Agronomic Services — News Release

MONDAY, JAN. 22, 2001

Timely advice for greenhouse tobacco growers

by David Dycus, NCDA&CS regional agronomist

SANFORD — It's time once again for greenhouse tobacco growers to start thinking about this years crop. But before the seeds are sown, there are three steps that should be taken to ensure a successful start.

First, growers should send in samples of source water for solution analysis before planting.

Solution samples, or water samples, are analyzed for general quality factors that may restrict proper plant growth. Solution analysis provides information on total alkalinity, pH, electrical conductivity and nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, iron, manganese, zinc, copper, boron, chlorine and sodium levels. It is the only way to be certain that a water source or nutrient solution is suitable for tobacco seedling production.

Solution samples are easy to take and only cost $4 each to be analyzed. To collect a sample, let the water run for 10 minutes before filling a clean 10- to 16-ounce plastic bottle. Fill out the Solution Analysis information form and send it along with the sample to the NCDA&CS Agronomic Division; Plant, Waste and Solution laboratory; 4300 Reedy Creek Road; Raleigh, N.C. 27607-6465. information forms and sampling instructions are available from local agricultural dealers, Cooperative Extension offices, NCDA&CS regional agronomists and via the website

After agronomists review the chemical results, they make recommendations to help growers produce quality tobacco transplants. Results are usually available within two to three days. Reports are mailed out to growers but are also accessible via the Internet.

The second important thing for growers to remember is to wait two weeks after sowing before adding fertilizer to the float water. Since soil media usually contains fertilizer, an additional application is not needed during the first two to three weeks after seeding. The most common early problem seen by laboratory technicians is soluble salt injury to young seedlingsusually due to the presence of too much fertilizer. Delaying the addition of fertilizer to the float bay until after germination minimizes the chance of this problem.

And third, once the fertilizer is added, samples of the nutrient solution should be collected and analyzed for proper nutrient levels. Potential problems at this stage include high or low nutrient concentrations, high or low pH, and excess soluble salts.

For more information or assistance, growers in Anson, Hoke, Lee, Montgomery, Moore, Randolph, Richmond and Scotland counties can contact me by e-mail at or by phone at 919-776-9338.


Last Update August 1, 2007


NCDA&CS Agronomic Services Division, Colleen M. Hudak-Wise, Ph.D., Director
Mailing Address: 1040 Mail Service Center, Raleigh NC 27699-1040
Physical Address: 4300 Reedy Creek Road, Raleigh NC 27607-6465
Phone: (919) 733-2655; FAX: (919) 733-2837

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