The publications in this collection do
not reflect current scientific knowledge
or recommendations. These texts
represent the historic publishing
record of the Institute for Food and
Agricultural Sciences and should be
used only to trace the historic work of
the Institute and its staff. Current IFAS
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Electronic Data Information Source
site maintained by the Florida
Cooperative Extension Service.
Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
Revisr4 avop no.
Plant Production iGuiae
A PR 20 1S77
Flue Cured 'T6bloi o
Florida Cooperative Extension Service
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida, Gainesville
John T. Woeste, Dean for Extension
Use of trade names in this publication is solely
for the purpose of providing specific informa-
tion. It is not a guarantee or warranty of prod-
ucts named and does not signify approval to
the exclusion of others of suitable composition.
PLANT PRODUCTION GUIDE FOR
A plentiful supply of healthy, uniform
plants is the first step toward producing a
profitable tobacco crop. Rather than purchase
plants, a grower should produce his own
plants because: (1) he has more assurance
of the variety he wants if seed are purchased
from a reliable seed dealer; (2) plants are
usually ready when desired; (3) the time
between plant pulling and transplanting is
less; (4) home-grown plants are usually of
better quality than purchased plants; (5) di-
seases are not likely to be introduced onto
the farm where plants are home-grown and
the plant bed soil has been properly fumi-
gated; and (6) home-grown plants can usu-
ally be produced at less cost than purchased
LOCATION AND SIZE
Tobacco plant beds should be located in an
area that is unshaded and near a good water
supply. The soil should be fertile and well-
drained, but not excessively drained. If pos-
sible, beds should extend in a north-south
direction with a slight slope to the south. A
natural or artificial windbreak around the
beds stimulates plant growth and helps pre-
vent damage to plastic covers. Weeds around
the bed should be removed to minimize weed
seed blowing onto the beds after fumigation.
A bed of 100 square yards should furnish
enough plants for 2 to 4 acres, if plants are
pulled from the beds 2 or 3 times. For a rela-
tively small tobacco acreage, seed sufficient
beds to produce enough plants to transplant
the allotted acreage within 2 or 3 days. For
a relatively large acreage, if equipment and
labor will not be available to transplant the
entire allotment within a few days, seed beds
at intervals to help ease the need to trans-
plant at one time.
Beds should be 6 to 12 feet wide and 100
to 200 feet long. Beds to be covered with
solid plastic film may be satisfactory in
widths of more than 12 feet if the height is
great enough to allow the use of an interior
SOIL PREPARATION AND FUMIGATION
Begin preparing beds 3 or 4 weeks before
the seeding date. This will be in late Novem-
ber or early December if cheesecloth covers
are used, or in mid-December if plastic cov-
ers are used. Remove bushes, stumps, roots,
weeds, and trash; then plow, disk, and hand
rake the soil until the surface is smooth.
Disk down weeds around the bed area to re-
duce the possibility of wind-blown seed en-
tering the bed after fumigation. Also provide
drainage around the beds to prevent weed
seed and disease organisms from being
washed onto the fumigated soil.
Before planting, fumigate plant bed soil
with a material containing methyl bromide
and chloropicrin for weed, insect, nematode,
and disease control. Other materials may be
used if only one pest is to be controlled. See
Table 1 for directions. Methyl bromide may
be applied by releasing it in containers under
a solid plastic film or by injecting it into the
soil and covering with plastic film in the
same or a separate operation. For either
method, the soil should be in good condition
and all plant debris removed. Soil moisture
should be sufficient for good seed germina-
tion. Excessive moisture will not allow good
penetration of the gas, and a lack of mois-
ture will result in poor kill of weed seed and
pests. Soil temperature should be 500F or
higher at time of treatment.
For release of methyl bromide from con-
tainers under plastic film, the following pro-
cedure is suggested:
(1) Subdivide the bed into 3 plots of equal
size and place a receptacle for the gas, such
as an open quart jar or a tin can, in an up-
right or slightly slanting position at the cen-
ter of each plot.
(2) Place the outer end of the tubing of
an applicator in each container and extend
the tubing 2 feet or more beyond the outside
of the bed. Some commercial containers have
a spike for puncturing cans of methyl bro-
mide and therefore do not require the use of
(3) Stretch a gas-proof cover over the
entire bed and to the ground outside the bed
on all sides; bank edges of cover with soil to
prevent escape of the gas.
(4) Release 3 pounds of methyl bromide
gas into each container, by use of the special
applicator or the spike on commercial con-
(5) Remove cover 2 days after treatment.
(6) Aerate beds 2-3 days before planting.
Chisel-type applicators should be used if
methyl bromide or other chemicals are in-
jected. Raking or shallow cultivation will
accelerate dissipation of the fumigant after
removing the cover.
Methyl bromide is extremely poisonous.
The gas should be released and the cover
removed from the windward side of the bed
so that any escaping fumes will be carried
away from the operator.
All commercial methyl bromide soil fu-
migants contain chloropicrin in varying
amounts. These formulations are effective
against most weeds, weed seed, nematodes,
soil-borne insects, and diseases. Some weeds,
such as white clover, have hard seed coats
and may not be killed by methyl bromide;
however, herbicides such as diphanamid
(Enide) will control these weeds. Vapam or
Vorlex will effectively control only nema-
todes and soil-borne diseases. When they are
used, diphanamid should be added for weed
control. If methyl bromide-chloropicrin for-
mulations are used according to directions,
other herbicides or nematicides should not
be needed in most instances. However, fungi-
cides for blue-mold and damping-off and in-
secticides for insects that migrate to the
beds may be required.
Soil properties, previous fertilization,
amount -of rainfall or irrigation, and type of
cover should be considered in determining
the amount, kind, and time of application of
plant bed fertilizer. Sandy loam and loamy
sands will require less total nitrogen and
potash than sandy soils. Soils that have re-
ceived heavy applications of complete ferti-
lizers in previous years will need limited
quantities of additional phosphorus. Heavy
rainfall or irrigation will leach most nitrogen
and potash below the root zone in sandy
soils, if the beds are covered with cotton
cheesecloth, nylon, or polyester and to some
extent perforated plastic film.
At least a week before seeding and when
the soil is moist, mix a 6-9-3, 12-6-6, or com-
parable fertilizer that contains 2% soluble
MgO with the top 2 or 3 inches of soil. The
fertilizer should contain at least 25% and
not over 50% of the total nitrogen in the
nitrate form. The fertilizer should contain
no more than 2% chlorine.
Rates of fertilization for beds to be cov-
ered with nylon, polyester, or cheesecloth
should be 0.5 to 2 pounds per square yard,
depending on analysis of the fertilizer and
soil properties. Due to the absence of leaching
conditions and the possibility of salt injury,
beds covered with solid plastic film should
not receive more than half the amount indi-
Application of organic fertilizers, such as
chicken or stable manure, is not recom-
mended, especially for beds to be covered
with plastic film. The use of organic mate-
rials has resulted in poor stands and in-
creases in insects and diseases. Also, chemi-
cal residues in the manure can damage
tobacco. If used, manure should be applied
several weeks before fumigation and seeding.
If the plants become yellow and grow
slowly but have normal roots and are not dis-
eased, apply 3 to 5 pounds of either nitrate
of soda (16-0-0), nitrate of soda-potash
(15-0-14), or nitrate of potash (13-0-44) in
100 gallons of water to each 100 square
yards of bed. These fertilizers may also be
applied over the beds in a dry form, but the
plants should be dry at the time of applica-
tion and the beds should be well-watered
after the topdressing. One or two top-
dressings at weekly intervals will usually be
adequate. Be sure to apply plenty of water
at the time of topdressing and to keep the
beds moist for several days.
During abnormally cool weather, the up-
per leaves of seedlings "cup up" and/or turn
yellow and the rate of plant growth may be
reduced. This condition will usually be cor-
rected by warmer temperatures, but the ap-
plication of 0.5-1.0 pound of nitrate nitrogen
per 100 square yards is sometimes beneficial.
Do not apply heavy rates of nitrogen fer-
tilizers within two weeks prior to trans-
planting, or plants may be very succulent and
will not survive transplanting.
SEEDING AND COVERS
Type of cover, irrigation, and bed prepara-
tion and management will influence seeding
rates and time of seeding.
Beds to be covered with cheesecloth should
be sown about 90 to 100 days before plants
are desired. Where plastic covers are to be
used, seeding should be about 60 days before
the desired transplanting date. For nylon or
polyester covers, seeding should be about
75 days prior to the desired transplanting
dates. Use 0.25-0.50 ounces of seed per 100
square yards of bed. If beds are well pre-
pared, managed, and good surface soil mois-
ture is maintained, seeding rates can be de-
creased to 0.2 ounces of seed per 100 square
yards of bed. There are about 300,000 seed
per ounce and approximately 9.25 teaspoons
per ounce of seed.
The soil surface should be dry at the time
of seeding. To aid even distribution, the seed
may be mixed with 4 to 6 pounds of weed-
free dry sand, dolomitic limestone, or part of
the plant bed fertilizer. If a mechanical
seeder is used, it is not necessary to mix the
seed with anything. The soil may be firmed
by rolling or tamping to help germination
and prevent seed from being washed to low
areas. The bed should be irrigated after
Five types of cover may be used for the
beds: cheesecloth, solid plastic film, perfo-
rated plastic film, nylon, or polyester. One
type is normally used to the exclusion of the
others, although the solid plastic film used as
a fumigation cover may be used for the first
3-5 weeks after the seed are sown. The solid
plastic film can then be perforated with a
pitchfork or other tool or can be replaced with
cheesecloth, nylon, or polyester. Solid plastic
film may also be used with cheesecloth to pro-
tect plants during extreme cold or to accel-
erate growth during stress periods.
Cheesecloth covers should have 26 to 28
threads per inch to give adequate plant pro-
tection during cold weather and to conserve
moisture. Plastic film, nylon, or polyester
should be of sufficient thickness to allow
handling, but not so thick as to limit light
penetration. Plastic film may vary from the
1.5 or 2.0 mil thickness used by custom fumi-
gators to the 6.0 mil cover used for green-
house-type beds. Nylon and polyester covers
are rated according to weight rather than
thickness. A weight of 0.3 to 0.6 ounce per
square yard will meet the criteria of being
strong enough for handling without tearing
and thin enough for sufficient light penetra-
tion. A pattern of holes, each with a diam-
eter of 0.25-0.50 inch, spaced 3 inches apart
has given the best results with perforated
Construction of sidewalls, frames, or other
means of supporting plant bed covers is gen-
erally an unnecessary expense except for
farmers who use walk-in or greenhouse-type
plant beds. Most farmers will be able to pro-
duce plants less expensively 'by spreading a
thin layer of weed-free pine straw or similar
material over the bed surface after seeding.
The straw will support the cover and allow
the seed to germinate and plants to grow to
sufficient size to support the cover. If straw
is not used, leave the bed surface in a rough
condition or roll with a cultipacker so the
cover will be supported by ridges or the
higher points of the soil and plants can
emerge from the furrows or lower areas of
the bed. This method may be acceptable with
solid plastic film, but rain and irrigation can
smooth the soil surface and cover seed too
deeply for germination under covers that
allow water penetration. Wind may cause
rubbing action by the cover, thus destroying
germinating seed and young plants not yet
strong enough to withstand such action.
The amount of straw should be enough to
support the cover but not give excess shade,
which reduces germination and early growth.
About 5 pounds of dry pine straw per 100
square yards should be enough, but the
amount may vary with moisture content and
age of the straw. Weed seed present in the
straw should be killed by methyl bromide
Beds should be well-irrigated before cov-
ering with plastic film and either before or
after covering with nylon, polyester, or
cheesecloth covers. Several methods of
holding the covers in place are available:
burying the edges in soil or using wire pins,
or weighting the edges with bricks, concrete
blocks, heavy boards, cans of sand, or other
weights. Since solid plastic film must be re-
moved for irrigating, applying pesticides, or
aerating, one side of such covers should be
held down by a method that allows easy ac-
Sidewalls and framing may be used for
elevating and supporting some covers, but
they are very costly. Nylon and polyester
covers should not be elevated, because they
stretch and tend to tear when wet from rain
Careful management of beds covered with
plastic film is required. Soil moisture should
be checked frequently and beds irrigated as
needed. During periods of high tempera-
tures, beds covered with plastic film should
be aerated to prevent heat damage.
Although insects are not always problems
in tobacco plant beds, farmers should plan
a control program. See Table 2 for insect con-
trol recommendations. On a preventive basis,
an application of Di-Syston can be made prior
to seeding. Di-Syston is a systemic insecti-
cide, which is absorbed by and is circulated
through the plant, rendering it toxic to the
feeding insect. For protection against aphids
and flea beetles in the plant beds, apply 15%
Di-Syston granules at the rate of 2/ pound
per 100 square yards and mix with the top
two to four inches of soil just before seeding.
Treatment may also be made after plants
emerge. Broadcast the granules evenly and
Examine the plant beds closely for insects
or insect damage as soon as the plants come
up, and apply insecticides as needed. Even if
insects have not been a problem previously,
a thorough application of one of the recom-
mended insecticides, made 10 days before
transplanting and another 5 days later, can
prevent transfer of an insect problem from
the bed to the field.
Two diseases, damping-off and blue mold,
are common in tobacco beds. Damping-off is
first recognizable by circular spots of plants
that become yellow, then later wilt and die.
This disease is more common under plastic
covers and in the presence of excessive soil
moisture, but heavy losses are rare. Blue mold
is first recognized by the bluish, cottony mold
on the underside of diseased leaves and is
seen best in early morning. Pale green-yellow
blotches may be noted on the upper leaf sur-
face. The early symptoms are followed by
burning of the leaf edge and larger areas of
the leaves. Blue mold is most common during
cool, humid weather. The same chemicals,
with the exception of streptomycin, can be
used to prevent both damping-off and blue
mold. Solid plastic covers exclude blue mold
spores and may increase temperatures in the
bed above a point lethal to the fungus, there-
fore, this disease may not be as great a prob-
lem under plastic film as under other covers.
Nevertheless, the disease should not be ig-
nored, especially during pulling time.
To prevent blue mold and damping-off,
spray or dust with ferbam, zineb, or Polyram
twice weekly from the time the plants are
about the size of a dime (or sooner if blue
mold appears in the community), until they
are pulled for setting in the field. Strepto-
mycin can be used both as a preventive and
a cure for blue mold.
When dusting, use either 15% ferbam
dust (11.4% active ingredient) or 10% zineb
dust (7.5% active ingredient). Apply with
a good rotary hand duster with spreader at-
tachment. Hold the outlet of the duster about
6 inches above the plants and turn the crank
rapidly. The application rate at each dusting
should be increased gradually from 1.0 to
2.0 pounds per 100 square yards when the
plants are small to 2 to 4 pounds as the
plants become larger. In addition to dusting
twice a week, dust immediately after rains
even if several dustings per week are re-
When spraying, mix either 4 ounces of
75% ferbam, 3 ounces of 75% zineb, or 2
ounces of 80% Polyram with 6 gallons of
water. Apply with properly equipped bucket
pump or other suitable spray rig. (Thor-
oughly mix the powder, in proper quantity,
with a small amount of water. Put this thin
paste in the correct volume of water and stir.
Continue stirring while applying the spray.
Use the spray on the day it is prepared.)
Hold the spray nozzle at an angle, 1 to 2
feet above the plants, and thoroughly wet
(but do not drench) every plant in the bed.
Be sure to cover the underside of leaves. The
application rate at each spraying should be
increased gradually from 3 gallons per 100
square yards when the plants are about the
size of a dime, to 5-6 gallons per 100 square
yards at pulling time. Sprays of lower con-
cehtration may be used at higher rates.
The spray amounts applied should be such
that the recommended amounts of active in-
gredient will be used.
When using streptomycin as a preventive,
mix sufficient wettable powder or emulsifiable
concentrate to give a spray of 100 parts per
million. Three to 6 gallons of water are usu-
ally necessary to give coverage to 100 yards
of bed, depending on size of the seedlings. If
blue mold appears on seedlings before treat-
ment is started, the material should be in-
creased to 200 parts per million. Be sure to
get even distribution over all plants in a bed
to give control.
Damping-off will not usually be a problem
if ferbam, zineb, or Polyram are applied peri-
odically as recommended. Streptomycin will
not provide adequate protection against
damping-off. Allowing the plant bed soil to
dry slightly, which requires ventilation of
beds covered with solid plastic film, will re-
duce the severity of damping-off.
After seeding and covering tobacco plant
beds, management functions will include: ir-
rigating; applying fungicides, insecticides,
and fertilizers; ventilating plastic-covered
beds to prevent heat damage; providing ex-
tra protection during periods of extreme
cold; and hardening of the plants for trans-
Irrigate frequently in dry weather, es-
pecially from seeding time until plant stands
are well established. Frequent, light, and uni-
form irrigations are more satisfactory than
occasional heavy applications. Soil moisture
should not be kept excessive, however, or
damping-off may result. Because of high soil
moisture under plastic-covered beds, algal
growth may be noticeable. Ventilating and
allowing the soil surface to dry slightly will
prevent excessive algal growth. A small
amount of algal growth is not detrimental.
Check soil moisture under plastic covered
beds to determine when to irrigate rather
than judging by the condensed moisture on
the underside of the cover.
If fertilizer salts are excessive, heavy ir-
rigations should be used to leach the salts.
Salt damage may be similar to damping-off
in that plants in localized areas of the bed
turn yellow and die because of root and stem
See the section on fertilization above for
recommendations on nitrogen topdressings.
Topdressings will not correct damping-off or
blue mold infestations or the yellowing
caused by extreme cold. Plant growth, how-
ever, may be stimulated by nitrogen top-
dressings after the disease or cold damage is
brought under control.
Examine the beds frequently for insects
and diseases. Use preventive measures for
.best results and other control measures if
insects or diseases should become established.
During warm and sunny days, excessive
temperatures under solid plastic covers can
damage the plants. Provide ventilation if
outside temperatures reach 750F. As a pre-
ventive step solid plastic covers may be per-
forated about 3-5 weeks after seeding by
punching holes in the cover with a pitchfork
or other tool.
During periods of extreme cold, extra pro-
tection for the beds is required. If tempera-
tures below 250F are expected, cover the
beds with plastic, muslin, straw, or other pro-
After the largest leaves on most of the
plants have reached a width of about 1 inch,
keep the cover off during daylight hours (if
there is not danger of cold injury) to allow
plants to harden as they grow. Water the
bed before each pulling to reduce breakage
of roots and again after each pulling to settle
soil around remaining plants. Well-hardened,
stocky plants with an overall length of 6 to
8 inches (from the root crown to the tips of
the longest leaves) are considered ideal for
setting in the field.
Do not neglect measures for control of
blue mold and aphids during the pulling sea-
son. After transplanting has been completed,
destroy all plants left in the bed to remove
hazards of diseases and insect pests that may
spread to fields of tobacco or that may build
up at the plant bed site.
If the bed is to be reused, destroy plants
by chopping or disking them into the soil
and plant a vigorous nematode-resistant
summer cover crop such as velvetbeans or
millet. Such crops help control nematodes,
shade the soil, retard growth of weeds and,
when incorporated with the soil, provide
high quality organic matter. A cover crop
such as rye for the early fall should also be
This guide was prepared by E. B. Whitty, As-
sociate Agronomist, David H. Teem, Assistant
Agronomist, T. A. Kucharek, Associate Plant
Pathologist, F. A. Johnson, Assistant Entomol-
ogist, and R. A. Dunn, Assistant Nematologist.
Table 1. Fumigation and Herbicide Recommendations
Rate/100 Exposure Aeration
Chemical Sq. Yards Application Period Period Remarks
9 lbs. Inject to 6-8 inch depth
with chisels spaced 10-12
inches apart and cover
with plastic film.
Release under plastic
film with applicator.
10 lbs. Inject as above.
7.2 lbs. Inject as above.
Inject to 6-inch depth
with chisels spaced 6-8
inches apart. Following
application, cover the
soil with plastic film,
roll and compact soil
2-3 days Controls weeds, nematodes,
and soil-borne insects and
2-3 days Same as above.
2 weeks Same as above.
21 days Effectively controls only
nematodes and soil-borne
for Tobacco Plant Beds.
Drench on material in
150-250 gallons of water.
Seal by sprinkling with
overhead irrigation and
Same as for injection of
.75 gal. Inject to 6-8 inches depth
with chisels spaced 6-8
inches apart. Cover with
gas-tight plastic film.
2.7 oz. Apply as a spray after
(1.35 oz.) seeding but before irriga-
tion. May also be applied
between and around beds
during fumigation to pre-
vent viable weed seed
from entering the treated
area after removal of
Same as for Vapam.
Controls only certain weeds.
Does not control nematodes,
insects, or diseases.
days prior to
Table 2. Insect Control Recommendations for Tobacco Plant Beds.
Insects Materials* Amount Remarks
Aphids, 15% Di-Syston G 2/3 lb./100 sq. yds. See Insect Control, p. o.
Vegetable 4% diazinon D 3 lb./100 sq. yds. Di-Syston, Guthion, and parathion
Weevils 5% malathion D % lb./100 sq. yds. should be applied only by a trained
1% parathion D 3 lb./100 sq. yds. operator.
4% Thiodan D 3 lb./100 sq. yds.
3% Guthion D 3 lb./100 sq. yds.
2% methomyl D 1/2 lb./100 sq. yds.
75% Orthene WP Mix 1 lb. Orthene 75% WP per 50 gals.
of water. Apply 1-11/2 gals. per 100 sq. yds.
See Insect Control, p. o.
Mix 1 b. Orthene 75% WP per 50 gals.
of water. Apply 1-11/ gals. per 100 sq. yds.
Cutworms 5% Dylox B 1/2 lb./100 sq. yds. Apply baits to the soil around the plants.
2% chlordane B 1/2 lb./100 sq. yds. Apply dusts on leaves as infestation
4% Thiodan D 1/2 lb./100 sq. yds. warrants.
1% parathion D 1 lb./100 sq. yds.
Mole Crickets 5% chlordane D 11/2 lb./100 sq. yds. Spread granular or dust material on soil
5% chlordane G 11/2 lb./100 sq. yds. surface and turn into soil 2-4 inches 1-2
14% diazinon G 1/ 'lb./100 sq. yds. days prior to sowing seed. Apply baits to
2% chlordane B / lb./100 sq. yds. soil surface around plots.
5% Dylox B 1/2 lb./100 sq. yds.
Grasshoppers 5% Sevin D 20-30 lbs./acre. Apply to grasslands and fields adjacent
to beds. Check pasture recommendations
*If sprays are desired, use equivalent dosages of recommended materials. Apply 1-1.5 gallons per 100 square yards.
B=Bait; D=Dust; G=Granules; WP=Wettable Powder; EC=Emulsifiable Concentrate.
This public document was promulgated at a cost
of $493.68 or .247 cents per copy to inform
tobacco growers of the latest plant production
Single copies are free to residents of Florida and may be obtained
from the County Extension Office. Bulk rates are available upon
request. Please submit details of the request to C.M. Hinton, Publi-
cation Distribution Center, IFAS Building 664, University of
Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611.
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK IN AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS
(Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914)
Cooperative Extension Service, IFAS, University of Florida
and United States Department of Agriculture, Cooperating
K. R. Tefertiller, Director