Plant Industry - Tobacco Plant Certification


If tobacco transplants are produced inside North Carolina for resale to growers who plant them more than 75 miles away, they must be inspected for insects and diseases by an NCDA&CS Plant Protection Specialist. The variety name or the words "variety not stated" must also be declared by the seller. The transplant producer is considered to be a nursery. Information on inspection procedures and fee structure is listed under the Nursery Certification Regulation. If transplants produced in North Carolina are intended for shipment out of the state only, the producer should check the requirements of the importing state to determine if a certificate of inspection is required. 



Tobacco growers who go outside the state to purchase transplants are required to obtain a permit and import only certified plants that have been inspected for diseases and insects. Using information provided on the permit application, the NCDA&CS can verify that the intended supplier is under an inspection program. Applications should be submitted as soon as plans are finalized in order to allow time for this as well as notification of inspectors. However, in emergency or unexpected situations, applications may be submitted verbally over the telephone up until the day before shipping. If an individual is responsible for bringing in plants and distributing them to others, he is the one that must obtain a permit, not those that receive plants from him. There is no charge for the permits. NCDA&CS Plant Protection Specialists are available to inspect incoming shipments upon their arrival in the state.

When an individual chooses to bypass the permit system or purchase uncertified transplants, he is taking a risk not only for himself but also for the entire production area. The blue mold disease epidemic and resultant crop losses that occurred in western North Carolina in 1995 have been largely attributed to the illegal importation of diseased burley tobacco plants from Georgia.

When making long-term plans and contracts, an importer should make sure his plant supplier knows he will accept only certified plants (because some grow both kinds) and put it in writing if necessary. Each crate of plants must also have an inspection certificate and a variety statement (or the phrase "variety not stated") attached to it. These certificates and the invoice should be saved for documentation in case there are problems later.

Importers should consider that even certified plants may be infected with damaging diseases without showing symptoms until they are transplanted. This is especially true of blue mold and virus diseases. The import permit system and certification requirement is not a guarantee of disease-free plants but one positive step in the overall management program. Most specialists agree that obtaining plants locally is a better alternative than obtaining them from a much more southern location where the growing season, and therefore possible disease development in the area, is more advanced.

Another thing to consider is that the tobacco plant regulation does not have specific standards as to quality, size, and color. Just because a grower is "certified" does not mean he has high-quality plants or is endorsed by the NCDA&CS. It means that the plants where inspected within 5 days of shipment and are apparently-free of plant pests as determined by inspectors in that state.