Cutting tobacco stalks after the last harvest has always been a very satisfying task. Today’s mechanical harvesters include stalk choppers. But this is not the last job to be completed to end this year’s tobacco season and prepare for the future.
Additional tasks to complete the tobacco production season include plowing out the roots, chopping the roots and stalks into small pieces and burying these along with weeds. Chopping and burying weeds is especially important for control of resistant pigweed for which no satisfactory chemical controls may be used in all cases. Delays in turning up roots can result in late season weed growth and production of seed that will further infest the field for years to come. Sucker regrowth supports additional generations of important tobacco insects (thrips, aphids, budworms, hornworms, flea beetles). Living roots support additional production of nematodes.
Turning up roots exposes them to the sunshine and helps control nematodes and ends the growth of the tobacco root. Additional trips with a disk at a later date will further chop tobacco roots and stalks burying them to begin the process of decay reducing the reservoir for tobacco nematodes and diseases (black shank, bacterial wilt, tobacco mosaic virus).
The final task of the tobacco production season is seeding of a small grain cover crop which will stabilize the soil during winter rainfall and spring wind storms, add organic matter for the next crop and provide rotation away from tobacco pests.