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
research may be found on the
Electronic Data Information Source
site maintained by the Florida
Cooperative Extension Service.
Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
EXPEIMEN T STATION
STATE AGRICULTURAL COLLEGE,
LAKE CITY, FLA.
TOBACCO AND ITS CULTIVATION.
October 1st, 1891.
REV. JAS. P. DEPASS, DIRECTOR.
PRATT BROS., BOOK AND JOB PRINTERS.
The experiment in Tl',..-. i. was conducted mainly for
the purpose of studying the enemies of the plant, from the
seed bed to the gathering of the crop, and the cheapest and
best method of destroying them.
In this bulletin, however, we will discuss the following
points in their order:
1st. The time of sowing.
2d. The preparation of seed beds. The character of
land to select.
3d. The preparation of field. Fertilizing.
5th. Cultivation. Sprouting.
6th. Protecting against insects.
7th. Harvesting the crop. The curing shed or barn.
8th. Preparing for market.
9th. Bulking the crop.
10th. The year's experiments.
1st. THE TIME TO PLANT.
It is conceded that as early as it is possible to get a bed,
Af plants ready to transplant after the season of frosts
should be the aim of every grower. Early plants grow off
well, and the first crop is not so subject to enemies as when
planted late ; will give more time for suckering, thus in-
creasing the production and bringing the crop earlier in the
year on the market.
I have found that the superstitious month with some
for the first sowing of seed was January, and the day of
the month the 7th. Of course no practical and sensible
man will be influenced by such superstitions, however'
strongly urged by the old and experienced tobacco grower.
Tobacco seed can be sown in this section any day from
the 1st of January to the last week in June. I have sown
early in December, and by protection had plants ready for
the field by the niddle of January. It is, however, an ex-
ceptional year when such plants, if transplanted, are not
destroyed by frost. This year I sowed February 11th and
again on March 12th, and by the 25th of April the plants
were ready to transplant. It was from the latter sowing I
obtained plants, the first being destroyed by the flea beetle.
THE PREPARATION OF THE SEED BED
should have special attention.
New or fresh land is the best, but not a necessity, for
the seed bed. To those who have the land and time and
means to prepare it. new land has some advantages; but
l1d land properly prepared will answer all purposes and it is
much cheaper to use it. The question of burning land is
also a doubtful one. I tried both burnt and unburnt lands
this year and the unburnt lands gave the best results by
odds. I fertilized the unburnt, however, but did not the
plats on which the burning was done. But the demonstra-
tion was clear that this year as well as the last beds sowed
on unburnt lands produced strong, stocky and healthy
Burning brush on either old or new land is costly. It
is contended in its favor that it-
Sst.' Kills grass seed.
2d. Destroys destructive insects and worms, which
will prey on the plants.
3d. It enriches the soil.
Experience teaches that on fresh land on the station
the beds which were burnt were not freer from grass or
weeds, nor from destructive insects, nor that the soil
was in better condition than the unburnt when the latter
was fertilized. Old land treated the same way gave, within
the past two years, similar results. If unburnt old land is
treated for insects (as see below), and it is not a demonstra-
tion that it has more insects than new land, for it is my
opinion new land should be treated the same way, then this
advantage of the new over the old is not demonstrated in
this respect. It is the custom of some farmers to fertilize
new land after it is burnt. I concede that it ought to be
done, since doubtless this was the reason of my failure in
plants on new land burnt but unfertilized.
I would suggest that each planter try both plans on
both old and new land and demonstrate the better way for
himself. Surely if old land can be utilized as a seed bed,
with or without burning, it will very greatly cheapen the
production of tobacco, especially when the acreage planted
is a large one.
The bed, whether burnt or unburnt, should be prepared
at least one month before the seed are sowed. To do this
select a moist plot of ground that is well drained, with sun
exposure. Break it up deep and pulverize the soil. Then
broadcast. the fertilizer and harrow or rake it in. Let the
beld ritnain for a month, when harrow it again, lay off rows
six inches apart, the furrow must be very shallow, sow seed,
cover with hand and roll with hand roller, or press the dirt
to seed by hand. Too much stress cannot be laid on the ne-
cessity of manuring several weeks before sowing seed, be-
cause the heat which manure passes through when put in
the ground will destroy the germ. I knew an acre thus
killed out entirely by chicken house manure, which was
placed in the ground one day and sowed the next.
A tobacco seed bed ought to be handy to water, so that
the bed may be sprayed or sprinkled every evening with
enough water to prevent the drying out of the seed or
plants during a dry season. Sandy soil dries rapidly to
the depth which seed ought to be planted,, and if the
seed germinate and have not sufficient water to keep
them alive, they easily die before seeing the sun. In wa-
tering seed bed, care should be taken not to make a crust
so hard through which the tender plafit cannot force its
way. This is one reason why I urge the planting in
rows, as preferable to broadcasting; it permits the water-
ing of beds before seed are up, and when the plants are
just up, besides if grass or weeds show themselves later
on they are easier managed.
Before sowing the seed, as a protection against the
flea beetle and other insects that may destroy the plants,
the bed ought to be thoroughly sprayed or watered with
a decoction made -by mixing 1 oz. of Paris green with 15
or 20 gallons of weak soap suds.
After the plants show themselves, the same can be
used. It would be better, however, to mix 1 oz.' of Paris
green in 20 gallons of hard water, and spray the plants
with it. Hard water is made by mixing lime in water
and allowing the lime to settle before using it. Two
pounds of lime to 20 gallons of water, well mixed, would
be a proper proportion. Pyrethrum (insect powder) may
be used in the place of arsenic or Paris green, either dry or
in decoction, but it'is not so, good,' besides it is costlier and
as bought from the stores is unreliable being too generally
The seed bed is an absolute necessity to a crop of to-
bacco. Here is where the' greatest care should be taken,
to protect against failure. I have had bed after bed of
plants ruined by the flea beetle, attributing the. failure of
plants to bad seed. This year this destructive insect per-
formed its work, as last year in the early sowings, and after
finding it in the bed and knowing it was the cause of fail..
ure, I began experiments for its destruction. When the
beetli was conquered the plants grew. I have known
farmers to lose their entire crop because of the failure of
the seed bed, doubtless on account of this insect, when they
attributed it to poor seed. Tobacco seed being very small
and the germ very, small, a very small insect can do it per-
manent damage. The beetle attacks the plant from the
time it germinates until it is large enough to transplant.
There are some soils not infested with it, and when such is
the case it is not necessary to provide against it. But those
who do not know this, in my judgement, would act wisely
by working against it, or at least by being prepared for it,
since the remedy is cheap, so that if it is observed immedi-
ate measures may be taken for its destruction.
The amount of seed commonly estimated to plant an
acre is one teaspoonfull, sowed on a bed twenty feet square.
To insure against failure I would advise the grower to pro-
cure a larger amount of seed per acre by four or five times,
to sow a larger area, and make two or three swings at in-
tervals of from two to four weeks.
The seed bed, if planted on the slope of a hill, should
have the rows running up and down the slope and not trans-
versely, with a drain on the upper side to turn the water
from above, for this will enable the water in a heavy rain-
fall to run off without damaging the bed so much.
The protection against exceptional cold spells
should be taken into consideration when laying off the
beds. A high, cold wind from the North or North-west and
North-east is very destructive to plants in bed, while a frost
enforces another sowing unless due protection is provided.
A cheap protection against frosts, if not the cheapest, is an
awning made out of cheese cloth, stretched over the beds
and secured to corner posts, two feet high. If a cold wind
is blowing the whole bed and sides should be covered.
A bed can be fertilized with well decomposed stable or
cow manure. It must be made very rich. A cow pen well
tramped would serve a good purpose, also a hog pen and
cotton seed with germ killed and well rotted, cotton seed
meal and fowl house manure. The Station composts, No.
1 and 2, have been found good. These must be used ac-
cording to the character of the soil. If the soil is poor, at
the rate of from 2 to 4 tons of the compost should be used
per acre; of cotton seed meal from 1 to 2 tons ; cotton seed,
from I to 3 tons, and stable and cow manure, from 10 to 20
THE CHARACTER OF LAND TO SELECT
on which to grow tobacco in Florida is light, sandy loam,
with or without clay subsoil, that is, neither too wet or too
dry. A clay soil does not make good tobacco. Wet land
well drained, is best adapted to its growth. New land needs
less manure than old, but the leaf is heavier and coarser.
Light sandy land makes the lightest leaf and the finest
It is a common statement that land where the lime iook
abounds, or what is termed the rotten limestone lands, is
not adapted to the plant. This is a mistake. The simple fact is
that there is but little land in the State where cotton and
corn are cultivated but what will raise tobacco profitably.
THE PREPARATION OF THE FIELD
is of the greatest importance. The land should be broken
up in January and harrowed if turfy. Three weeks at least
before transplanting, old land should be laid off in furrows
-it is.not necessary to treat new land thus if not fertilized-
three or four feet apart, according to its fertility, and the
fertilizer placed in rows and covered. In covering fertilizer,
either the foot or hoe should be used, and then only the ma-
nure covered, which should be dropped from eighteen to
twenty-four inches apart in furrow. This leaves a small
bed, which marks the place for the plant andi gives the ma-
nure time to pass through a heat and thus prevent its killing
the plant when put in.
tobacco plants is as easily done as cabbage plants, and in
the same way. They live as readily and the same rule gov-
erning the one will hold good for the other. There should,
be droppers and planters, the planter always carrying a few
plants in order to supply the places which a careless drop-
per may miss. It greatly facilitates the growth 6f the plant
to have the planter followed by one who will pour a little
water on each plant after being set to pack the earth around
the roots. Even if the season is a good one, this is a good
plan but not thought to be necessary, if the ground is wet
and rain is expected. If the plants are ready and the sea-
son dry, watering is necessary. It is a matter of great
economy to get the plants out as early in the season as pos-
sible, because the sooner the'plant begins to grow, the ear-
lier the work begins and the more readily will grass and
weeds be subdued, besides the worms which eat the leaf
will not be so destructive on first and second crops. The
plants are ready to transplant when they have fohr leaves,
although they may be flat on the ground. If the ground,
however, is very dry, it does not hurt to wait for a season,
even if the plant grows to six or twelve inches high. I
planted out a small plot this year in a dry season without
watering, when the plants were from fifteen to eighteer
inches high, putting them but little deeper than they were
in the seed bed. While they did not do as well as when
snialler in a fair season, still, as will be seen below, they
made a fair crop. A gentleman of this, Columbia County,
Mi. .Wm. T. Henry, a successful tobacco grower, tells me
that he succeeds as well with large plants as small and me-
dium sized ones by planting them in the ground so deep as
to leave the bud and a few leaves out. His experience is
that the 'stock puts out latteral roots and the plant makes
as much and as good tobacco. A few days after transplant-
ing, the patch in field should be gone over and where a
plant has failed to live, another should be put in its place.
of the field should commence as soon as the plants are set.
A Planet Junior onltivator run between the rows will break
or loosen up the soil and thus prevent evaporation of mois-
ture. Care should be taken not to run too close the plant
and cover it with dirt. The grass and weeds must be kept
down, and for this purpose the cultivator and hoe will be
necessary. In cultivating tobacco, deep plowing is an in-
jury, as also is the bedding of too much dirt to the plant.
Tobacco does not require as much work as cotton, because
it grows more rapidly, shades the ground sooner and ma-
tures quicker. The natural tendency of tobacco is to put
out sprouts at each leaf. These, when one or two inches
long, must be pinched off close to the stock and not allowed
to grow. This is called
By allowing these to grow they dwarf the leaf, which is
the valuable part of the tobacco. By keeping the sprouts
down the strength of the plant is thrown in the leaf, which
makes them broad and large. Another point to be carefully.
watched is to prevent the plant from running to seed. To
accomplish this, as soon as the plant begins to bloom or
shows a tendency to do so, it must be stopped, unless yon
wish to make seed and not leaf. Usually the plant is topped
when it has from ten to fourteen leaves. The tobacco plant
is very tender and brittle and the sprouting and topping can
be easily done by simply pinching them off with the thumb
of tobacco are very destructive. The cut-worm begins its
work on the plant as soon as it is transplanted, and this de-
structive worm often does its work to the plant in the seed
bed. The spraying recommended for the flea beetle will-
serve as a good protection against them. In the field,
however, it has been found that Paris green mixed with
common "flour, in the ratio of. an ounce to four or five
pounds, and sprinkled around and on the plants, will, to a
great extent, destroy this worm. A perforated tin box, such
as a mustard box, or any other can will serve the purpose
of distributing the poison.
The bud worm is very justly dreaded, 'because its work
is very destructive. It is 'a small worm, comparatively,
that eats into the bud of the plant, doing great damage to
the leaves. This pest can be largely controlled by sprink-
ling in the bud from time to time arsenic or Paris green in
the salim proportions as for the cut worm and prepared in
the arnae w'ay.
The horn worm is very large and very destructive to the
leaf. The fly lays its eggs in the night upon the leaf. These
worms after hatching grow very rapidly. The best method
and the only one used is to pick off the worm, and eggs at
regular periods. It is estimated that a patch or field should
be wormed every other day. If the season is propitious
they multiply very rapidly, and this worm with the bud
worm are the,enemies which injure the plant after it begins
to grow to any size, and they should be very carefully,
Spraying the leaves of tobacco with any poison or dust-
ing it for the purpose of killing the horn worm is said to in-
jure the texture of the leaf and also the flavor of the tobac-
co. If arsenic kills the bud worm, which sometimes de-
stryvs the bud and always injures the leaves in the grow-
ing plant, it is possible that spraying may not have a dam-
aging effect. This, like many other current opinions, not
having been tested, may be false. That the worm can be de-
stroyed by spraying and'thus largely cheapen the labor of
making tobacco, is beyond a question. But if the leaf and
quality of tobacco is injured thereby it would be folly to do
it. But as the matter has not been settled as to the iujury
of tobacco if sprayed, it will be a part of the Station work
next year to make experiments on this line.
'The tobacco grower has very valuable friends in the
hornet, the wasp, the dirt-dauber and this class of insects.
These feed on the 'bud and horn worm and some-years are
very valuable, rendering the work of worming very light.
These insect fri.*-n.l- were of great service on the Stati'i
this year and also in this county. Their value to the farme'
generally in destroying pests cannot easily be estimated
and it is well for farmers geneFrlly to know that instead c
trying to destroy them they should have them protected not
only for the sake of tobacco but other crops.
Mr. Geo. C. Mattox, of this county, a successful farmer
and tobacco grower, states that cow peas planted around
the tobacco field attracts the wasps to the tobacco. This is
worthy of trial, especially with small planters, for anything
of this kind, which will encourage these insects is worth
is very irregular. From the time it begins until the crop is
gathered, it is daily work. This work embraces the period
from the first ripening to the last. Tobacco begins to
ripen from six weeks to two months after being trans-
planted. After the first crop is gathered the plant puts out
suckers and it will sucker from three to four times, provid-
ed it is planted early enough, thus making as many crops
in a season.
The best way to harvest is to gather the entire stock
when ripe by cutting it off near the ground with a sharp
knife. This should be done by bending with left hand and
cutting from below up. The leaves should not be stripped
from the stalk. Care should be taken not to allow sand to
get on the leaves, as it very generally injures the sale of the
crop. 'By cutting off close to the ground the plant begins
at once to put out suckers. All should be pinched off ex-'
cept one, and it should be treated as the original plant.
The third and fourth crop should be treated in the same way.
The fourth crop is a small one but the leaves serve as a
filler or for smoking tobacco, and if gathered it makes an
excellent fertilizer. The stalks should all be saved for this
purpose and are valuable with which to mulch fruit trees.
t will very greatly increase the third and fourth crop if
cotton seed meal is worked around the plant after the sec-
ond cutting or even the first. The great trouble with in-
experienced growers is to determine when the tobacco. is
ripe. Experience, however, soon settles this matter and it
is not difficult to learn. The novice ought not to be deterred
from planting because of the want of this knowledge. Color
of leaves does not prove the best rule to determine the ripe-
ness of the plant, although when the leaves begin to lighten
in color Io spotted it is a good sign. A better rule is that
when the top leaves between the stems will readily snap
in the fingers.
THE CURING SHED OR BARN
nay or may not be a costly building in our climate. For
;hose who are beginners it is not necessary to build a barn es-
)Jcially for the purpose if there is a gin house on the prem-
ises or a log house that can be used. I have seen the very
best quality of tobacco cured in a log house, the joists of
which were not six feet above the floor. A common wagon
shed will serve the purpose to begin with, if closed on the
sides by rough-edge boards. The tobacco crop of the Sta-
tion is cured in the upper part of a wagon and tool house.
A great many persons wil doubtless begin the cultivation
of tobacco by planting from one-half to five acres. In their
interest the above is written. For those who are deter-
mined to make it their business and who wish to build barns
they can do so cheaply with rough lumber.
The points to be observed are ventilation when needed
and the shutting it off. There should be doors at each end
of the barn large enough to drive a wagon through. There
is no necessity for a wooden floor, but the sills ought to be
laid on brick or rock in our climate to prevent rotting and
the space between the sills and thp ground closed with
plank. Frames from the top to the bottom should be built
inside on which to place poles or laths on which to hang
the tobacco to dry. A sharp .hollow spear that will fit a
lath, made sharp enough to pierce through the stalk sihoiiul
be used. The -ta.lk- pierced and slipped on the lath or s 1mall
pole and repeated until the pole is full, not allowing the
leaves to touch each other and then put, in place on the
frames. is the cheapest, easiest and most expeditious way
of hanging tobacco in the barnes. It, however, may be tied
by strings to a pole, or with a knife a slit may be cnt in the
stalk and one end of the small pole or lath may be sharpened
and pushed through but these methods are both costly and
tedious. Care should be taken to economize all the space
possible and the number of stalks to each lath or pole is to
be settled by the distance of frames apart on which they
are to rest. A shed 30 by 60 feet and from 10 to 14 feet high
is sufficiently roomy to cure five or six acres of tobacco.
Persons who desire to build fancy barns can do so, keeping
in view the necessity of ventilation both above and below,
PREPARING THE CROP FOR MARKET.
The leaves are ready to strip, from the stalk when th-e
stems are sufficiently dry as to show no sap when pinched.
Before stripping, however, the leaves should be moist en-
ough so that they will not crumble or break in handling. If
the weather is dry the tobacco becomes very dry, but by
giving it ventilation at night by opening doors and windows,
or during a rain, the condition can be obtained for handling.
In assorting those which are ragged, the top and bot-
tom leaves should'be put to. themselves and tied into bun-
dles ranging in number from twenty-five to fifty according
to size. These are for fillers. The better leaves should be
assorted according to size and tied in bundles or hands from
twenty to thirty in each. These are for wrappers. In strip-
ping tobacco the leaves should not be smoothed out by the
hand, but put into bundles just as they are on the stalk.
The different grades should never be mixed in packing,
but kept to themselves. In packing into boxes or bales the
tips should lap each other and care should be taken to pack
firmly and evenly. 'The ends of the packages should not
touch the box sides, for ventilation is needed here to some
extent to prevent moulding. When boxed keep on a board
floor and under no circumstances allow the box or package
to remain on the ground. The boxes should be as light as
possible and uniform in size, but the dry goods boxes of
merchants serve an excellent purpose.
BULKING THE CROP.
I mean by bulking that the farmers of a county would,
I think, find it to their interest to store their crop in their
county town for assortment and sale, securing or building
a house for this purpose. An expert should be employed
who will carefully assort and bale the tobacco in the same
way as the Cubans do. Wrappers, binders and fillers
should be packed to themselves. In this way the crop
would realize more money, amply repaying the cost of ex-
pert. On this line much could be said.
THIS YEAR'S EXPERIMENT
was not begun with the view of estimating the amount of
tobacco that could be made per acre, still below I give re-
sults on this line, but as stated, in order to study the ene-
mies of the crop. In the foregoing pages my experience is
given in regard to them.
The season was unusually dry and in transplanting and
afterwards, the patches on the hillsides had to be watered
Three plots were planted; one on fresh bottom land, un-
manured, containing ',225 square feet. This was the rich-
est and in every way best adapted to tobacco. The yield
per plot was 125 pounds and per acre at the rate of over 750
The second plot was on a dry hill-side and old land.
This plot was replanted several times and watered before a
stand was obtained. The yield was 75 pounds to the plot,
consisting of 8,360 square feet, or per acre in round numbers
The third plot consisted of tiled land. on slope of hill
and planted several years in vegetables, in early spring this
year in green peas. After the peas were removed tobacco
plants averaging from 15 to 18 inches high were planted, the
object being to place them in the ground as deep as they
were in seed bed. The spectacle presented a few days af-
terwards was very discouraging and reminded one of a 'to-
mato patch planted in dry weather with same size plants.
Many 'of the lower leaves dropped off, the top wilted down
almmo, halt"'ay to the ground and every indication of fail-
ure and death was apparent. In a few days, however, the
plants straightened up, new leaves began to grow, and the
plot consisting of 7,200 square feet, less than one-sixth of
an acre, yielded 75 pounds or over 450 pounds per acre.
The hill-side and tiled plots were fertilized with Station
compost No. 1 at the rate of 2,000 pounds per acre. The
,crop was cultivated with Planet Jr. cultivator and hoe un-
til the ground was shaded, and the grass and weeds kept
down in same way with each successive crop.
The experiment last year in tobacco was made on a cab-
bage patch, the plants put in the hills after the cabbage was
cut., Thosewho grow vegetables will be able to utilize their
land in a tobacco crop and get it off before it is time to pre-
pare land for vegetables in the fall.
The later tobacco is planted in the field the more liable
is it to be injured by insects. The crop planted, last year,
when seed was sowed,as late as June 19th and plants set
out as late as July 12th, the insects were very troublesome.
If these pests can be controlled late in the season, Florida
gardeners in the tobacco crop 'have an industry of very
great profit to them. The harvesting of this late planting
began the middle of September. Cigars made from this to-
bacco tested by experts in one of the largest factories in
the State were said to be as good as any raised in Cuba, ex-
cept the Vuelta Abajo.
Chickens, turkeys and guineas are useful to worm the
crop, and where they can be given the use of the patch they
will do good work for the small farmer.
The Board of Trustees has authorized me to purchase
fifty dollars' worth of seed for free distribution to those
who desire to cultivate tobacco. I have, through Mr. F. S.
Yznaga, who is connected with the celebrated manufactory
of Havana cigars of V. Martinez, Ybor & Co., Tampa, Fla.,
made arrangements to have them purchased'fresh in Cuba.
If I succeed in securing them I will distribute as much as an
ounce to each applicant as long as they last. The seed to
be purchased will'be the Vuelta Abajo, conceded to be the
finest-variety raised. I would suggest to the farmers of
each county to settle on one kind of seed and uniformly
work together to make their county famous as to the char-
acter of their tobacco. In this way every advantage there
is in soil, climate, curing and handling is secured, and if
the crop of the county is bulked, assorted and packed, ic
would be but a short while before each county would have
established a special character and brand that would large-
ly increase its profits. Farmers testing various kinds of
seeds, at the same time will doubtless get the tobacco mix-
ed and this will surely injure its sale.
It is my purpose on the Station and its sub-stations to
test various kinds of seeds from different countries, if they
can be obtained, in order to settle, if possible, which will
produce the best wrapper.
The Vuelta AbaJo makes the best filler and a good
wrapper. As wrappers bring the highest prices, to raise
them is the first consideration. Various opinions obtain as
to whether seed from this or that country will make the
finest and highest-priced wrapper. This the Station in due
time hopes to be able definitely to settle.
JAs. P. DEPASs,