TIFTON, GA (WALB) - The recent downpours in Southwest Georgia could cause a major fungal infection in tobacco crops.
A UGA Tifton scientist is testing partial disease-resistant tobacco plants that should help growers.
The rain in the last 10 days has been more than enough to cause a major episode of black shank disease that kills many tobacco crops.
Retired UGA Professor Paul Bertand is testing out these partial disease-resistant tobacco crops in hopes to protect them from black shank disease.
It's a disease that causes a black lesion to come up from the ground on the stalk. It survives in the soil and infects the roots after the crop is planted, and many farmers haven't had much luck with a resistant-crop.
"Their keenly interested, they just want resistant varieties they can count on for good grade and yield which hasn't always been the case," said Bertrand.
He's testing out six variety trials on five tobacco farms located in Ben Hill County, Pierce, Atkinson, Echols and Lanier Counties.
The demand for tobacco has gone down from 40,000 acres to 12,000 in Southwest Georgia.
But Bertrand explained the crop still supports a great deal of communities.
"It's still a major source of farm income and those communities that still have a concentration of tobacco it still puts money into the community," remarked Bertrand.
Ninety percent of tobacco is grown south of Hazelhurst and east of I-75.
And about 2,000 acres are near Statesboro.
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