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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Late season tobacco pests pop up again

Tobacco flea beetle damage on an upper stalk tobacco leaf, August 20, 2009.

Last summer, several growers (mostly large) reported flea beetle, and to a lesser extent, aphid injury on partially harvested tobacco. This summer, we are again seeing patchy incidences of heavy flea beetle feeding on plants held in the field. This feeding is most prominent on the lowest leaves but has shown up on the entire plant. Because this is often the most valuable portion of the plant, growers are understandably concerned about the yield and quality impacts of flea beetle feeding. We lack good thresholds for late season injury, and I am particularly concerned about additional pesticide use so close to harvest.
Tobacco flea beetles congregated at the top of a tobacco plant, August 20, 2009.

Recently, a PhD student, Richard Reeves, has joined my lab and will be addressing this and other questions pertaining to thresholds for insect injury in tobacco. This work will begin in earnest in 2010.

For the time being, there are treatment options, but they should be used cautiously on a case-by-case basis.

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