FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
THURSDAY, JULY 12, 2007
Catherine Stokes, information & communication specialist
NCDA&CS Agronomic Division
(919) 733 2655
NCDA&CS agronomist provides crop nutrient advice
Joey Bailey (right) of Bailey's Berry Farm & Country Market in Nash County smiles as he contemplates a record-breaking harvest this year - thanks to the help from his regional agronomist, Charlest Mitchell (left). | Download a high res version of this photo
BAILEY -When Joey and Linda Bailey looked across their Nash County greenhouse in January, they saw trouble in the wilted leaves and thick stems of their tomato plants. Their concern led them to Charles Mitchell, a regional agronomist with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. With a few visits and appropriate agronomic tests, Mitchell was able to turn the Baileys trouble into promise.
"I was worried," Joey Bailey said. "Before talking to Charles, I had almost decided to destroy the crop and start over. He came out and helped us solve the problem. If it weren't for him, we wouldn't have had a chance to meet our goal this year."
Mitchell first visited the Baileys in late January. He examined their plants and familiarized himself with their water and nutrient application system. He also collected samples of the crop's leaves and submitted them to the NCDA&CS Agronomic Division laboratory for tissue analysis. In just a few days, test results came back showing that the leaves contained abnormally high levels of nitrogen and insufficient amounts of potassium.
Mitchell advised the Baileys to apply less nitrogen. They did this immediately by reducing each of three daily water applications from four minutes to three minutes. Mitchell also suggested that they switch their nitrogen fertilizer from calcium nitrate to a mixture of calcium and potassium nitrates. By mid-February, the Baileys tomato plants were showing marked improvement.
"If you had told me in January that we would have harvested 1,700 pounds of tomatoes by early June, I wouldn't have believed it," Joey Bailey said. "Now it looks like we have a good chance to make 2,650 pounds by the end of the season. That would be a record for us. Our best so far has been 2,000 pounds."
"The Baileys are meticulous and conscientious growers," Mitchell said. "They only had this problem because they very carefully followed some incorrect instructions. Fortunately, we were able to run some tests and turn things around for them."
"Tissue testing is a simple thing to do and the information you get back is invaluable," Joey Bailey said. "Once Charles looked at the results and adjusted our fertilizer program, we were using six to eight pounds less nitrogen than before. Next year, we're going to start with the rate Charles suggested and go from there."
Greenhouse crops are typically high-value commodities that require significant investments. Routine agronomic testing helps protect these investments. A good annual program includes a preseason test of source water quality, an early-season test to verify that all nutrient solutions are reaching the expected target concentration, and biweekly tissue sampling beginning at least two weeks before flowering.
North Carolina farmers have access to one of the most comprehensive agronomic testing and advisory services in the nation. The NCDA&CS Agronomic Division laboratories perform soil tests, nematode assays, and nutrient analyses of plant tissue, composted materials, wastes, nutrient solutions and source water.
The NCDA&CS Field Services section has been helping N.C. growers manage fertilization and other nutrient-related issues for nearly 30 years. The division's 13 regional agronomists visit growers; evaluate suspected nutrient and/or nematode problems; and give advice on sampling, liming and fertilization. For contact information, visit www.ncagr.com/agronomi/rahome.htm.
Agronomist Charles Mitchell serves growers in Edgecombe, Franklin, Halifax, Nash, Northampton, Vance and Warren counties. He can be reached by phone at (919) 562-7700 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.