Johnston County Ag Report

Johnston County Ag Report

April  6,  2015


The Johnston County Ag Report is edited weekly by Agricultural Extension Agents at the Johnston County Extension Center.  If you have any questions about the content, please call the Extension Center at 919-989-5380.


Tim Britton, Extension Agent – Field Crops

Dan Wells, Extension Agent – Livestock

Brandon Parker, Extension Agent – Horticulture

Shawn Banks, Extension Agent – Horticulture

Bryant Spivey, County Extension Director

Pesticide and Household Hazardous Waste Disposal Day- April 18, 2015 

Need to clean out the barn, the chemical storage building, pantry, or underneath the sink. On April 18, 2014 North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Partnership with Johnston County Solid Waste and the NCDA will hold a Pesticide and Household Hazardous Waste Disposal Day. The event will take place at the Johnston County Livestock Arena at 520 County Home Road in Smithfield from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM. Acceptable items include old and unused pesticides, household cleaners, fluorescent (high TCLP mercury) lamps and bulbs from homeowners, and all types of household batteries i.e. Nickel-Cadmium, Lithium, Alkaline and Metal Hydride. In addition, we will be accepting oil base paint only from the public, but not latex. Oil base paint has a volatile organic odor and can only be washed-off with solvent, such as mineral spirits or kerosene. Latex paint, however, will wash-off with water. If the label is still attached, it will indicate oil base vs. latex. Again, we will only be accepting oil base paint and aerosol paints. The latex paint is a non-hazardous household liquid that can be solidified with sand, soil or kitty litter and disposed of in the landfill.

Wheat Update
To maintain this potential yield, upper wheat leaves (particularly the flag leaf – the top leaf) need to be healthy.  This includes minimal insect feeding and disease development.  Weekly scouting is suggested from the last week of March through the grain fill hard dough stage.


Cereal Leaf Beetles

Cereal leaf beetle larvae are leaf feeders.  Larvae are slug-like with yellow bodies.  Larvae  are typically covered with black mucus/fecal matter, giving them a shiny black wet appearance.  Larvae eat long strips of green tissue from between leaf veins and may skeletonize entire leaves.  Severely damaged fields appear white/frosted when lots of green tissue are lost from upper leaves.

The cereal leaf beetle threshold is 25 eggs and/or larvae per 100 tillers.  50% of the threshold should consist of larvae.  If threshold is met, low rates of several insecticides (such as Baythroid, Warrior, Karate Z and Mustang Max) will control this single generation pest.


Fungal Diseases

Fungal diseases include powdery mildew, leaf rust and stripe rust and conditions have been right for the development of these diseases.
Powdery mildew lesions are first noticeable as white, powdery spots on lower leaves and stems.  The disease may then progress up the plant.  Powdery mildew variety resistance is the most economical control measure.  Pay special attention to wheat fields planted to powdery mildew susceptible/moderately susceptible varieties.  A fungicide should be applied if powdery mildew reaches 5-10% coverage of the upper leaves.

Leaf rust lesions are small/circular/brown and individually spaced.  Stripe rust lesions are small/circular/yellow-orange and merge to form stripes.  Leaf rust/stripe rust variety resistance is the most economical control measure.  Pay special attention to wheat fields planted to leaf rust/stripe rust susceptible/moderately susceptible varieties.  If the variety is rated susceptible/moderately susceptible and 1-3% of the leaf area is covered with lesions, a fungicide should be applied.  If the variety is rated resistant or moderately resistant, it likely has adult-plant resistance meaning that although a few lesions will appear, it will not be profitable to apply a fungicide.


Soil Fumigation Temperature

Tobacco field preparation and fumigation has been delayed due to wet conditions.  Finally it is beginning to get dry enough in most parts of the county to allow field work to begin.  In addition to the wet conditions, it continues to be very cold with a low temperature around 24 degrees Fahrenheit Sunday morning.

I have reviewed labels for both Telone C-17 and Chloropicrin 100 for minimum soil temperature requirements.  The Telone C-17 label states, “The minimum soil temperature at the depth of injection is 40F.” The Chloropicrin 100 label gives no specific limitation with respect to minimum soil temperatures at application.  Therefore, considering the two labels and the fact that Telone C-17 contains chloropicrin it seems logical that either of these fumigants can be applied when soil temperatures at the depth of injection are 40 degrees Fahrenheit or greater. I have spoken with staff at Triest who also indicated agreement with this reasoning.


Alternatives to Fumigation

There really are no proven chemical alternatives to fumigation for management of root-knot nematode and Granville wilt in flue-cured tobacco.  If you look in the 2015 Flue-Cured Tobacco Guide, fumigants are the only chemicals that you will find listed for management of these pathogens.  On average, Granville wilt is our most costly disease of tobacco in Johnston County.  Root injury from tillage equipment and root-knot nematode gives an entry point for the bacteria that cause Granville wilt.  Keep in mind that a good crop of tobacco can be valued at over $6,000 per acre and you are well aware that the cost of producing a crop is also very expensive.  Your tobacco crop is worth an investment in protecting it from disease and nematodes.

The only way to convince me that fumigation is not necessary is with very good nematode sampling.  This means that samples must be collected in the fall before cold weather and must not represent more than about 4-5 acres.  In addition, I would need assurance that there was not Granville wilt present in the field the previous time that tobacco was planted.  We still have time to fumigate.  Be patient, and fumigate when conditions allow.


Tobacco Transplant Clipping

Clipping is an important practice that increases the number of usable tobacco transplants.  Clipping plants correctly improves uniformity.  Before clipping your transplants, perform simple maintenance to ensure proper mower operation.  Make sure the mower is not leaking any fluids.  Clean the mower well to prevent spreading any pathogens and sanitize the deck with a 50 percent bleach solution.  It is best to clean the mower between clippings and between houses.

Clipping should begin when the plants are 2 to 2 ½ inches above the tray.  The blade should be set at 1 to 1.5 inches above the bud.  Clipping too close to the bud will slow growth dramatically resulting in short transplants.  Dropped clippings allow pathogens to grow and spread to transplants, therefore, careful collection is essential.  Clippings should be dumped at least 100 yards away from the greenhouse to prevent disease.


As tobacco transplanting begins, many tobacco growers are considering what if anything should be added to the transplant water.  I will never forget a statement made by Dr. Bill Collins, Retired Tobacco Extension Specialist when he said, “The best thing to put in transplant water is water.”  Well, things do change and there are several labeled products today that provide measurable benefits when added to the transplant water.  However, the statement by Dr. Collins is a great reminder that there should be good reason for any product that is added to the transplant water.  The product must have greater potential benefit and any possible risk of stunting or other phytotoxic effects that it may cause.
Multiple Products in Transplant Water
Many growers are successfully applying insecticides in the transplant water to control aphids, flea beetles, wireworms, and other larvae that attack tobacco.  Examples include acephate, imidacloprid (Admire Pro and others), thiamethoxam (Platinum and others), and chlorantroniliprole (Coragen).  Others are interested in applying Ridomil Gold SL or Presidio in the transplant water to help manage Black Shank, and still others would like to apply starter fertilizer to boost early season growth.  In addition to these options, there are producers that would like to and have successfully applied 3 or more of these options in the transplant water without any known issues or concerns.  The more products that are used, the greater the potential for phytotoxicity or mixing problems.

So, what if anything should you add to the transplant water?  First you must answer the question of what you are trying to achieve with the addition of these products.

Insecticides-Imidacloprid and thiamethoxam are effective tools for managing wireworm, flea beetles, and aphids and transplant water application is a labeled and effective application method.  One benefit of this method is a lower risk for stunting when compared to tray drench application.  However, the transplant water application may provide less suppression of Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus (TSWV) than tray drench application because the plant must grow and absorb insecticide before the suppression is in effect.  NCSU research has shown that Coragen provides control of hornworms and budworms during the first 5-6 weeks after transplanting when applied in the transplant water.  Careful scouting to monitor pest levels is always important regardless of what products have been used.

Fungicides-NCSU research has also shown that 4 ounces of Ridomil Gold SL in the transplant water provides similar Black Shank control to 16 ounces applied at first cultivation in some locations.  Additionally, Presidio has a new label for flue-cured tobacco and is effective for managing Black Shank. This application method offers excellent placement and timing and can result in improved uptake during the first 1-2 weeks after planting. If there is a history of black shank in the field, a follow-up fungicide application between transplant and lay-by can provide further benefit.  However, the product label does not allow consecutive applications of Presidio, therefore growers should alternate these fungicides when using sequential applications. If there is little history of Black Shank, a long rotation (4 or more years without tobacco), and highly resistant varieties are planted, then Ridomil will have limited value in the transplant water or otherwise.

Starter fertilizers can provide improved early season growth and earlier topping when compared to no starter.  However, research has shown that this earliness does not normally result in measurable increases in yield or quality.  Does this mean that starter fertilizers do not have a place? No, to the contrary a good crop start is always important no matter what crop you are trying to grow.  Good early season growth can facilitate improved cultivation and therefore better weed control.  The quicker that tobacco reaches topping, the sooner that it is safe from pests like aphids, budworms, and even reduces blue mold risk.  So, early growth is important.  When selecting a starter fertilizer, choose a product that provides the most nutrients (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium) for your money.  Application rates should be based on providing approximately 5 pounds of phosphorus per acre.  The benefit of starter fertilizers in the transplant water will be even less when a complete fertilizer like 6-6-18 or 8-8-24 is used as the base fertilizer.  If 40 pounds of phosphorus is applied in the base fertilizer at or near transplanting, then it is really difficult to justify the extra expense, trouble, and potential risk associated with transplant water fertilizer.

Ultimately, every grower must decide what benefits are needed from transplant water treatments, and decide where to spend their money and effort for the maximum benefit.

Does Starter Fertilizer Result in More Black Shank?
The real short answer is, it can in some cases. Research has shown that using starter fertilizer in the transplant water can result in more Black Shank. The reason has not been proven through research, but it is possible that this can be explained by the growth of a larger root system early in the season.  Typically varieties with smaller root systems are more resistant to disease.  Obviously, a large healthy root system is very desirable when disease is not a problem.

So, should you use starter fertilizer, and should you use it in combination with Ridomil or Presidio?  Black Shank is much less of a problem in Johnston County than is Granville Wilt.  It is not known whether starter fertilizers have similar effects on the incidence of Granville Wilt. The ratio of Granville Wilt problem fields to Black Shank fields is probably at least 10 to 1 in Johnston County.  However, some farms and some fields can have severe Black Shank pressure.  If you are having difficulty managing Black Shank and you are using starter fertilizer, then you should consider discontinuing the use of the product.  If you have been using starter with good results and Black Shank is not a big concern, then there is really no reason to change.  You can even use Ridomil with the starter fertilizer and this will reduce your risk of disease as illustrated by the data.

Mixing and Application-When using any product in the transplant water uniform application is critical.  Mixing products in the nurse tank is advisable to avoid mistakes and concentration in the field.  Agitation is important to make sure that products are properly mixed and that they stay in suspension.  Application equipment should be calibrated to make sure that rates are accurate.  Pressure systems rather than gravity flow systems are preferred.



Water Sampling & Analysis

Water quality management is an important part of successful tobacco transplant production. Bicarbonate levels are high in water from some wells in the Coastal Plain of North Carolina. Additionally, boron levels may not be adequate in some water supplies. Do not assume that water from municipal sources is better for tobacco transplant production. Municipal sources may be acceptable, but they are generally less desirable than on-farm wells. For any source, water quality should be tested annually prior to seeding. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services analyzes water samples at a cost of $5.00 per sample. Collect approximately 16 ounces of water from each potential source. Plastic drink bottles (16 to 20 ounce) make ideal sample containers. Sample containers should be rinsed several times with plain water before the sample is collected. Water should be allowed to run from the tap for several minutes prior to collecting the sample. You can deliver your water sample to the Johnston County Extension Center and our staff will assist you with the information sheet. A check is the preferred method of payment.


Disease Prevention in Tobacco Greenhouses
This is the time of the year when our greenhouse disease problems normally begin.  Monitor plants closely for disease symptoms and ventilate as much as possible to keep humidity as low as possible and prevent any disease development.  As clipping begins, do a thorough job of collecting clippings and dispose of clippings at least 100 yards away from the greenhouse. Sanitize mowers before and between clippings with a 50:50 bleach solution to kill any pathogens on the mower.

Soluble Salt Injury in Greenhouses


In the tobacco greenhouse soluble salts injury, sometimes called fertilizer burn, can occur between germination and the time that the plant roots reach the water in the float bed.  Fertilizer that is added to potting soil and to the float water can accumulate in the upper portion of the cell as water evaporates from the tray surface.  When conditions exist that delay growth and delay plant roots reaching the water before salt concentrations reach high levels, plant injury and even death may occur.

The symptoms of soluble salts injury will be noticed first in the smaller plants.  Late germinating plants are typically smaller and have root systems that are shallow when compared to larger seedlings.  While all of these small plants may not make useable transplants in the long run, they can be a good indicator that salts are reaching potentially damaging levels.  To manage plants for maximum usability, it is important to avoid any condition like high soluble salts that can slow the growth of smaller plants.

The first symptom of high soluble salts on small tobacco seedlings may appear as a slight yellowing.  As this problem progresses, the yellowing will grow worse and the lower leaves will begin turning brown at the leaf margin.  Eventually, the entire plant will turn brown and die.  Since a picture can be worth a thousand words, I have attached 3 images that I took in a greenhouse today.  In each picture, the plant in the center is the one that is affected by high soluble salts.  When this problem occurs, the larger seedlings will be dark green in color creating a stark contrast.

In addition, the following link will access a document that provides general information about soluble salt injury on crops.

Soluble salt injury may be avoided by selecting potting soil with limited fertilizer added and by delaying fertilizer addition until about 7 days after seeding.  However, using these practices does not guarantee protection from soluble salt injury.  When soluble salts reach damaging levels, tobacco plants should be wet overtop with enough water to leach salts through the cells.  This will probably require 2-3 gallons of water per linear foot of the greenhouse. Once plant roots extend through the bottom of the tray, the risk of salt injury is virtually eliminated.


Soil Sampling


Due to the heavy rainfall, it is highly recommended that soil samples be taken as soon as possible this fall so you can take proper corrective measures. Soil sampling and testing is probably the most effective tool a grower has to help determine soil nutrient levels. Soil tests can help save the time and money as well as encourage a healthy environment by reducing unnecessary fertilizer use. Plants require sixteen essential nutrients to grow. Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium are major elements, and are required in relatively large amounts, whereas others like calcium, sulfur and magnesium are minor elements and are required in moderate amounts. Several others are required in extremely small amounts, but are important to proper plant growth. If any of the 16 essential elements are not present in adequate amounts, plant growth and development will decrease. On the other hand, if some of the same nutrients are present at excessive levels, they can be toxic to plants and be a source of pollution in the environment. It is very important to take soil samples correctly in order to receive accurate recommendations. Late summer or early fall is a goodtime to sample soil so that adequate lime may be applied and can react with the soil by raising the pH prior to spring planting. By sampling in the fall, sufficient time is allowed to make plans for the spring fertilizer applications. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture (NCDA) Agronomic Division, in Raleigh, analyzes soil samples, which are collected in North Carolina for free from April through November. The cost is $4.00/sample from December through March. Anyone submitting soil samples during this time period must make payment online via credit card at the NCDA & CS Agronomic Division website ( or contact the division directly to set up an escrow account (919-733-2655).   There are private companies in the State that charge a fee for samples. The soil test results indicate the amount of lime and fertilizer formulation recommendations needed for the area sampled. Remember a target pH of 6.0 in recommended for most row crops. Just follow the recommendations and you will be fine. You can use this website to help you understand your soil report.

  • Identify or grid off field areas. Each sample should represent a uniform soil area with similar past management. It is recommended that each sample represent 10 acres or less. The sampling area should also represent a field area that can be managed in a similar fashion (management zone) in regard to nutrient or limestone application and crop production. Choice of sample areas is determined by the soils present, past management and productivity, and goals desired for field management practices. That is, will the field be managed as whole unit or will nutrient and limestone applications can be made to subfield areas or identified management zones? Collect 15-20 small samples, from within the top six inches (3-6 samples at 4 inches for lawns) of the soil, within the identified are. It is important to take as uniform of a sample as possible. As samples are collected, mix them together thoroughly in a plastic bucket, as a galvanized or tin bucket can contaminate the soil and cause inaccurate test results.
  • Discard all stones, roots and debris. Transfer about a cup of soil from the small sample plastic bucket to the soil sample boxes provided by the NCDA. Sample boxes and forms are free from the Extension Service and forms can be accessed online.
  • Give each sample box a number or code that will indicate the area sampled, along with your name and address on each box.
  • Fill out the information sheet and bring it, along with your samples, to the local Cooperative Extension Service office in your area. Again, If a payment is required, it must be made online via credit card at the NCDA & CS Agronomic Division website ( or contact the division directly to set up an escrow account (919-733-2655).


Wayne County joins quarantine area for emerald ash borer

RALEIGH – Wayne County is the latest to come under quarantine rules restricting the movement of hardwood firewood, ash nursery stock and other ash materials after emerald ash borers were confirmed in a 2.5-acre stand of trees on the Cherry Research Farm. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler signed an emergency quarantine order allowing the expansion.

An employee with the research farm noticed unusual markings on ash trees and contacted an entomologist with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Plant Industry Division for confirmation of EAB. Ash trees were planted on about 13 acres in 2000 as part of a research project.
Granville, Person, Vance and Warren counties remain under quarantine from the first detection of emerald ash borer in the state in June 2013. North Carolina was the 20th state in the country to confirm the presence of the destructive pest.

“This discovery comes as our Plant Industry Division prepares to begin placing traps, readying for beetle emergence in April. Staff will be setting out traps statewide looking for signs of this pest in other locations,” Troxler said. “If you see the purple, triangle-shaped traps, please do not disturb them. We ask for the public’s cooperation with these quarantine rules to restrict the movement any further.”

The beetle was first detected in the United States in Michigan in 2002. It is responsible for the death or decline of tens of millions of ash trees across the country.

Under the state quarantine, all hardwood firewood and plants and plant parts of the ash tree — including living, dead, cut or fallen, green lumber, stumps, roots, branches and composted and uncomposted chips — cannot be moved outside the county.
The Plant Industry and Research Stations divisions and N.C. Forest Service are working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Symptoms of emerald ash borer in ash trees include a general decline in the appearance of the tree, such as thinning from the top down and loss of leaves. Clumps of shoots, also known as epicormic sprouts, emerging from the trunk of the tree and increased woodpecker activity are other symptoms. The emerald ash borer is not the only pest that can cause these.
Emerald ash borers overwinter as larvae. The adult beetle is one-fourth to a half-inch long and is slender and metallic green. When the adults emerge from a tree, they leave behind a D-shaped exit hole. The larvae can also create serpentine tunneling marks, known as feeding galleries, which are found under the bark of the infested trees.
Home and landowners are encouraged to report any symptomatic activity in ash trees to the NCDA&CS Plant Industry Division hotline at 1-800-206-9333 or by email at The pest can affect any of the four types of ash trees grown in the state.



2012 Census of Agriculture-County Highlights


Johnston County reported 1175 operation farms with over 50% reporting less than $10,000 in sales and approximately 20% reporting over $100,000 in sales. Johnston County was ranked 10th in the state in total agricultural products sold, reporting over $265 million in sales. Johnson County was ranked 1st in tobacco sales and 2nd in the tobacco acreage nationally. Johnston County ranked 2nd in the state in vegetable sales and acreage. We are also ranked 12th in swine sales, 13th in Grains and beans, fruits, nuts, and berries sales, and 14th in nursery, greenhouse, and sod sales and 18th in hay sales.

Of the 1175 farms, 548 farms were operated by full-time farmers and 627 were operated by part-time farmers. The average age of the farmer was 57.6.


USDA Local Foods Directory

USDA has developed a local food directory to help farmers who have a stand, store, or other direct-to-consumer retail outlet on the farm to be found more easily. USDA wants to raise awareness of this resource. Details can be found here:

For questions, people can call: 202.690.1327 or send an email to


Pesticide Container Rinse and Recycle Program


The pesticide container rinse and recycle program has expanded to two new locations, giving Johnston County more room to properly dispose of pesticide containers.

These sites are located at 820 Stewart Road in Four Oaks, 1096 Scout Road in the Bentonville area, 9349 NC Hwy 96 S in the Meadow area, 5677 US Hwy 301 in Kenly, 15031 Buffalo Road in Clayton, and at the Johnston County Landfill site on County Home Road in Smithfield.

Properly rinsed containers can be taken to these sites during normal operating hours. You do not need a county solid waste sticker to dispose of containers. Remember, to remove the label and lid, on buckets, remove the label and large lid, and on 35 and 55 gallon drums, drill holes in bottom and do not crush.



Disclaimer: Recommendations are included as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services does not imply endorsement by North Carolina State University nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned.

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