RALEIGH, N.C. — Successful production of tobacco transplants starts with good water quality and with getting the right nutrient levels in the float solution. Growers preparing for transplant production should begin by having their source water tested by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
“Alkalinity, pH, sodium and chloride issues are the most common water quality problems we see with float bed source water in North Carolina,” said Dr. Kristin Hicks, Plant/Waste/Solution/Media Section chief of the Agronomic Services Division. “By getting the source water tested, growers can address any of these issues early on before they have a chance to impact transplant quality. The results from testing and making adjustments can be quite significant.”
After fertilizers have been mixed into the bays, growers should send in a sample of their nutrient solution to verify that target nutrient concentrations have been achieved. Testing of source water and nutrient solutions is available as a solution analysis through the Agronomic Services Division.
The test measures total alkalinity, pH, electrical conductivity (soluble salts) and the concentration of 12 essential plant nutrients including nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, iron, manganese, zinc, copper, boron and chloride plus sodium. The NCDA&CS Solution Analysis Report provides this information as well as nutrient management recommendations by an agronomist.
Collecting & submitting nutrient solution samples
To collect a sample, use a clean, plastic bottle such as a 16-ounce soda or water bottle. Before filling the bottle, rinse it with the water being collected.
- For source water—before sampling, run water 5 to 10 minutes and collect sample from the tap or emitter. Use the “ST” code for source water.
- For nutrient solutions— Make sure fertilizer has been thoroughly mixed and is completely dissolved. Collect the sample from the emitter NOT the stock tank. Use the “NT” code for nutrient solutions. Please specify if you are using an organic nutrient solution.
Label each sample with a sample ID and fill out the Solution Analysis Information form. Forms are available from the Agronomic Division office in Raleigh, regional agronomists, county extension centers and agribusiness outlets. They also are available on the Agronomic Division website at http://www.ncagr.gov/agronomi/
The turnaround time for results is typically three to four days from the receipt of samples. Cost is $5 for North Carolina residents or $25 for out-of-state samples.
Samples should be mailed to the NCDA&CS Agronomic Services Solutions Section at either:
Mailing address (USPS):
1040 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699
Physical address (UPS, FedEx):
4300 Reedy Creek Rd, Raleigh NC 27607
For questions about how to collect samples or interpret reports, contact the Agronomic Division at 919-733-2655. NCDA&CS regional agronomists and county Cooperative Extension agents are also good sources of advice. Go to www.ncagr.gov/agronomi/rahome.