Title Page

Group Title: Soils Department mimeo report
Title: Fertility status of soils used for cigar-wrapper tobacco production in Florida
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00091544/00001
 Material Information
Title: Fertility status of soils used for cigar-wrapper tobacco production in Florida
Alternate Title: Soils Department mimeo report 62-3 ; University of Florida
Physical Description: 10 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Pritchett, William L
Breland, H. L ( Herman Leroy ), 1916-
University of Florida -- Dept. of Soils
University of Florida -- Agricultural Experiment Station
Publisher: Agricultural Experiment Stations, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: June 1962
Subject: Tobacco -- Soils -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Soils -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Statement of Responsibility: W.L. Pritchett and H.L. Breland.
General Note: Cover title.
General Note: "June, 1962."
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00091544
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 310175840

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Full Text

Soils Department Mimeo Report 62-1


W. L. Pritchett and H. L. Breland

June, 1962

Soils Department Mimeo Report 62-1

Fertility Status of Soils used for Cigar-Wrapper Tobacco in Florida
W. L. Pritchett and H. L. Breland1


Cigar-wrapper tobacco is intensively cultivated and a relatively expensive

crop to produce. Production costs have been estimated to be in excess of $2,000 per

acre annually. The cost of erecting and maintaining cloth shades, the need for

many hours of hand labor and the use of large amounts of manures and fertilizers all

contribute to the high costs of production of wrapper tobacco.

Although commercial fertilizers and manures account for a sizeable portion of

the total cost of production, there has been a reluctance on the part of the grower

to change or economize on these materials as long as the possibility existed that

such action might result in reduced yield or quality. The possibility of using

soil analysis as a guide for more efficient fertilizer use in cigar-wrapper

tobacco production has been an objective of research work conducted at the North

Florida Experiment Station during the past several years. Although considerable

progress has been achieved, it was thought that a survey of the fertility status of

commercial shades would aid in the application of the experimental results.

Accordingly, an on-the-farm survey was conducted during the fall and winter of

1958-1959. The purpose of this survey was to obtain information on (1) the

fertility status of soils used for the production of tobacco in the area, (2) the

fertilizer practices used, (3) the relationship of soil fertility to the yield and

quality of the crop, and (4) the possibility of using soil analysis as a guide for

fertilizer applications.

1Soils Technologist and Assistant Soils Chemist, Fla. Agr. Exp. Sta., Gainesville.

__ _

June 1962

Methods of Procedure

Cigar-wrapper tobacco production in Florida is confined to Gadsden, Leon, and

Madison counties. However, since about 90 percent of this acreage is in Gadsden

County, this survey was limited to that area. Eighty-six shades were included in

the study. Of these, 42 were managed by cooperators of John H. Swisher and Son and

the remaining i4 were selected at random from other growers in the county. The

size of the shades varied from 2.1 to 25.0 acres, with a mean area of 9.6 acres.
The total land area under these shades was 831.2 acres. This represented about 21

percent of the acreage of cigar-wrapper tobacco grown in Florida. Provision was

made for irrigation in all shades. Although irrigation practices doubtless varied

considerably, no attempt was made to ascertain these differences. The soils were

fumigated for the 1958 tobacco crop in all except 8 shades. In 5 of these, the

soils had been fumigated in previous years.

Samples of the surface soil (0 to 6 inches) were collected from shades during

October, 1958. This was approximately 3 months after the tobacco had been

harvested. The soil had been turned and a winter cover crop had been planted in

many shades. Cocklebur or weeds were allowed to grow as a cover crop in others.

In all cases, care was taken to get 1 to 3 representative samples of surface soil

(0-6") from each shade----depending upon the size of the field and uniformity of
the soil. Each sample was a composite of 15 cores taken at random within a uniform

area of the field with a 1-inch diameter soil tube.
Soil samples were air dried, sieved and analyzed for pH and acid ammonium

acetate (pH 4.8) extractable Ca, Mg, P and K by the University of Florida Soil

Testing Laboratory according to procedures outlined by Breland.1
Data on field histories, cultural and fertilizer practices and yield and

quality of tobacco grown in the shades in 1958 were obtained through interviews

with the growers and from records of packers.

LSoils Dept. Mimeo Report No. 58-3, Nov. 6, 1957.



Soils: The lack of suitable soils outside the present tobacco-producing area

is generally conceded to be one of the principal reasons why cigar-wrapper tobacco

production in the South has been confined to a relatively small area in North

Florida and Southwest Georgia. It is reported that "tobacco requires a well-

drained soil of high fertility. The soils best suited have moderate depth, gentle

slope, and fairly porous subsoil to provide good natural drainage, both surface

and subsoil".1 However, the soils encountered in the shades varied rather widely

in their physical properties. Approximately 26 percent of the acreages in the

86 shades included in the survey was fine sands or loany fine sands while 63 per-

cent was classified as sandy loams or fine sandy loams. The three soil series

encountered most frequently in the shades were Tifton, Norfolk and Magnolia. They

represented some 20, 15 and 14 percent, respectively, of the total acreage.

However, other series encountered, in defending order of acreage, were: Orangeburg,

Marlboro, Ruston, Red Bay, Faceville, Lakeland, Goldsboro and Carnegie.

The soils also varied rather widely in productivity. In addition to

differences in native fertility among the various soil types, there were rather

wide differences in the rate of fertilizer application and accumulation of plant

nutrients in the soil. The number of years that the areas had been used for the

production of tobacco varied from 1 to 40 years. Ten percent of the shades had

been in tobacco production for 3 years or less. In this group there were 3 new

shades; however, the soils of these latter shades had previously been used for the

production of other crops during the past few years. Approximately one-half of the

shades had been used intermittently for tobacco production for 15 years or more,

and some 36 percent had been in production for 20 years or more.

Rotations: Shades are generally rotated with cover crops, to aid in the

maintenance of soil organic matter and in the control of certain diseases and

1Kincaid, R. R. Shade Tobacco Growing in Florida. Fla. Dept. of Agr. Bul. 136.


insects, or with cash crops to gain more complete recovery of the tobacco fertilizer.

Of the shades included in this survey, there were new areas in which tobacco had

not been produced previously and in which no rotation had been established. Of

the remaining 83 fields, only in 6 shades had tobacco been grown continuously for

3 to 15 years or more without an intervening cash or cover crop. Even in these

shades, weeds were generally allowed to grow during the late summer and served as

a cover for the soil for about five months.

The most popular rotation used in shades included in this study was a 2-year

rotation in which tobacco was grown in alternate years, with cover or other cash

crops during the intervening 18 months. In 61 shades representing 75 percent of

the acreage studied, a rotation of this type was followed.

In 9 percent of the acreage in these shades, a three-year rotation was

followed in which tobacco was grown two years and then left idle, or used for the

production of a summer crop, in the third year. Five shades, representing 4.6 per-

cent of the total acreage surveyed, followed a four-year rotation in which tobacco

was grown for two years and then used for production of other crops for two years.

For shades in which a rotation was followed, the alternate summer crop varied

considerably; however, cockleburs appeared to be the most popular crop. In 41

percent of the total acreage surveyed, cockleburs was the alternate crop. Corn

was planted to some 38 percent of the shade areas and weeds were allowed to grow

during the summer in 8 percent. Sorghum was grown as a summer crop in one shade

during the alternate year.

A winter cover crop was used.in most of the shades whether a rotation was

followed or not. In 60 percent of the area under shade, oats or rye were planted

in the early fall for a winter cover or green manure crop. Cockleburs or weeds

were allowed to volunteer and grow following the tobacco harvest serving as a

fall cover.

Cockleburs are a popular cover crop for shade tobacco production since they

are apparently less susceptible to some of the nematodes attacking tobacco. The


plant is re-seeded, but may be mechanically planted in order to insure a good stand.

They generally volunteer in May or June following a winter cover crop or in July

following tobacco. In shades used for continuous tobacco production a crop of

cockleburs is usually turned under in early winter when preparing the land for the

next crop. In alternate two-year rotations cockleburs may be left until the follow-

ing spring before they are turned under.

Living Practices: Although the tobacco plant apparently grows well at pH

levels substantially above the range (pH 5.2 to 5.6) generally recommended, there

has been a reluctance on the part of the grower to lime the soil above this level

due to the possibility of disease infestations which may be prevalent at a higher

pH. With the development of more resistant varieties this problem may not be as

serious as it has been in the past. Of the shades included in this survey, only

five fields, representing a total of 62 acres, had received any dolomitic limestone

during the past three years other than 200 pounds per acre commonly included in

the mixed fertilizer. The average application on these soils was about 900 pounds

per acre. During the same period only one shade had received high calcic limestone.

On the other hand, 19 of the 68 shades had received basic slag. The average

application of basic slag was about 1200 pounds per acre per year.

The reaction of the soil in these shades ranged from pH 4.6 to 6.2, with the

average of all shades being pH 5.3.

Fertilizer and Manures: In addition to the green manure which is usually

turned under prior to the production of shade tobacco, relatively large amounts of

animal manures are also applied to the soil 3 to 5 weeks before tobacco plants are

set. Eighty-two of the 86 shades received animal manures for the 1958 crop. The

amounts used in these shades ranged from 6 to 25 tons per acre, with an average of

12.5 tons. Only 6 percent received less than 10 tons per acre, 5 percent received

10 to 15 tons per acre, and 12 percent of the shade received 16 to 20 tons, and

7 percent received 20 tons or more of animal manures the year the shade was used


for tobacco production. Other organic material such as cottonseed meal, tung meal

and tobacco stems may also be applied to the soil in addition to the manures and

commercial fertilizers.

Fertilizer programs have evolved after many years of trial and error and,

consequently, they have many features in common. However, there are considerable

differences in the soil management programs followed by farmers in the area.

Base application of mixed fertilizer, made 1 to 2 weeks before planting, varied

from 1800 to 4200 pounds per acre, with an average application of 2661 pounds per

acre. There were 13 fertilizer grades used in the various shades of this study.

The 6-6-6 and the 6-3-7 grades were the most popular and accounted for 37 and 29

percent, respectively, of the total fertilizer tonnage. Other grades used were

4-h-8, 6-3-6, 5-5-8, 6-7-7, 5-3-6, 6-4-10, 5-4-6, 6-4-7, 6-5-6, 6-3-6, 5-5-8 and

4-3-6. In addition to the base application of mixed fertilizer, cottonseed meal

was often applied either separately or mixed with the base fertilizer.

One or two sidedressings were usually applied 1 to 3 weeks after transplanting

using the same materials as that used for the base fertilizer. The average side-

dress application of mixed fertilizers was 1500 pounds per acre. In addition,

applications of 25 to 200 pounds per acre of potassium nitrate were made in about

10 percent of the shades.

Combining all materials, except for the manures, the total nutrients applied

to an annual crop of tobacco ranged from 150 to 850 pounds per acre of nitrogen

with an average application of 262 pounds per acre. Phosphorus applications varied

from 84 to 310 pounds per acre of P205, with an average application of 129 pounds

annually. Potassium applications varied from 168 to 1338 pounds of K20 per acre

with an average application of 310 pounds.

The source and rate of nitrogen probably varied from shade to shade more than

that of any other plant nutrient. Thirteen percent of the acreage in the shade

survey received less than 200 pounds of N per acre while 77 percent of the acreage


received 200 to 300 pounds of N per acre, and more than 300 pounds were applied to

10 percent of the acreage. Nitrogen is not only the most expensive of the

nutrients applied, but also one for which the need is difficult to predict. Most

of the nitrogen is applied in the organic form in the hope that it will sustain the

plant over a period of 3 to 4 months. However the rate of availability depends on

soil and climatic conditions.

Phosphorus is used to a much less extent than nitrogen or potassium. It

accumulates in the soil, since it is not used in large quantities by the plant nor

is it readily leached from the soil. Nevertheless, relatively large amounts are

applied annually. Only seven percent of the acreage in the shades received less

than 100 pounds. Thirty-three percent received from 100 to 200 pounds; 55 percent

received from 200 to 300 pounds, and 3 percent of the shades received more than

300 pounds of P205 per acre.

Potassium from the mixed fertilizers and cottonseed meal were applied in

quantities less than 200 pounds per acre in only 4 percent of the shades; 61

percent of the shades received from 200 to 300 pounds per acre, and 35 percent

received more than 300 pounds of K20 per acre annually.

Soil Analysist It might be expected that the fertility status of soils used

for the production of an intensively cultivated crop, such as cigar-wrapper

tobacco, would vary rather widely. Not only do these soils vary in native

fertility, but the accumulation of nutrients in the soil is also influenced by the

amount of fertilizer applied annually, the number of years the shade has been in

production, and the capacity of the soil to retain nutrients against leaching.

Analysis of soil samples collected from the individual shades confirms the

rather wide variation in the fertility status of the tobacco soils. A summary of

the data obtained for pH and extractable nutrients* from the analysis of samples

from the 86 fields is given below:

*Amnonium acetate (pH 4.8) extractable.


Soil Property
1. pH
2. CaO Ibs/A.
3. MgO lbs/A.
4. P205 lbs/A.
5. K20 Ibs/A.

4.6 6.2
322 1400 Ibs/A.
70 481 lbs/A.
11 827 lbs/A.
120 576 lbs/A.

762 lbs/A.
180 lbs/A.
87 lbs/A.
301 lbs/A.

As expected, the pH, calcium and magnesium levels are low when compared to

soils used for vegetable or field crop production. On the other hand the average

content of extractable phosphorus and potassium are quite high. Furthermore, it

should be pointed out that these data represent the ammonium acetate (pH 4.8)

extractable fraction and not total content of the soil. A more accurate picture

of the available nutrients in the soil can probably be gained from the following

table showing the percent distribution of shades within ranges of fertility status:



.50 7.0

5.0-5.5 71.8

5,6-6.0 18.8

> 6.0 2.4

Lbs/Acre %
500 14.1

500-750 40.0

751-1000 29.4

> 1000 16.5

Lbs/Acre %
100 17.6

100-200 50.6

201-300 27.0

> 300 4.7

Lbs/Acre %
40 20.0

40-80 45.9

81-120 24.7

> 120 9.4

Lbs/Acre %
150 5.9

150-300 48.2

301-450 35.3

> 45o 10.6

About 72 percent of the samples had pH values within the range (pH 5.0-5.5)

generally considered favorable for tobacco production. About 7 percent were below

this range and 21 percent had pH values above this range. A study of the

relationship of soil reaction to yield indicates that yields may increase with

increases in soil pH up to the range of 5.6-6.0. The average yield of fields with

pH values of less than 5.0 was 1262 pounds per acre. Those fields with pH values

between 5.0 and 5.5 yielded 1347 pounds per acre, while those in the range of pH

5.6 to 6.0 yielded 1376 pounds. Fields with pH values above 6.0 had an average

yield of only 945 pounds per acre.






Although yields dropped in fields with a pH above 6.0, the average yield of

tobacco increased as the level of extractable soil calcium increased up to the

highest category (1000 pounds of CaO per acre). However, there were little dif-

ferences in yields in soils containing 500 pounds or more of CaO.

The soils were generally very low in extractable magnesium. About 68 percent

contained less than 200 pounds of MgO per acre and 18 percent contained less than

100. Both of these categories are considered to be in the critical range. The

yield of tobacco increased from 1272 pounds in fields containing less than 100

pounds of MgO per acre to 1312, 1368, and 1586 in fields that contained 100-199,

200-300, and more than 300 pounds per acre, respectively.

Phosphorus is generally applied in tobacco fertilizers in mhch larger amounts

than is removed in the tobacco crop. Since it does not readily leach from the

soil, phosphorus has accumulated in the soil of old shades. Only 20 percent of

the samples contained less than 40 pounds of extractable P205, a level which is

considered adequate in most soils. There was an increase in average yield in

fields containing up to the 40-79 pounds of P20O and decreased at higher levels of

soil phosphorus.

Potassium, as phosphorus, has accumulated in these soils. Some 46 percent

of the samples contained more than 300 pounds of extractable K20 per acre and 94

percent contained 150 pounds or more per acre. This latter amount is generally

considered to be satisfactory for most conditions. There was apparently no

relationship between potash levels in the soil and yields.

The application of high rates of fertilizers year after year tends to build-up

the level of nutrients in soils in tobacco shades. This is strikingly shown in a

series of samples of Tifton fine sandy loam collected from the Strom Farm near

Quincy. The samples were taken from a virgin area and from adjacent shades that

had been in tobacco for 2 and 15 years, respectively:


Pounds per acre of extractive
Depth of sample pH CaO MgO P205 K20
Virgin (Tifton fsl)
0-6" 4.97 21 25 Trace 22
6-12" 5.00 21 25 Trace 14
12-24" 5.18 21 25 Trace 14
New Shade (Tifton fsl)

0-6" 5.49 294 116 20 250
6-12" 4.95 252 50 Trace 297
12-24" 5.05 336 66 Trace 167
Old Shade (Tifton fsl)

0-6" 5.75 885 266 112 312
6-12" 5.32 294 66 51 335
12-24" 4.77 168 66 Trace 283

On the other hand, when all 86 soils were considered as a group; there

appeared to be very little relationship between nutrient level and the number of
years that tobacco had been grown in the sahde. This was probably due to the wide
variety of soil types and fertilizer programs represented in the various shades
included in this study.

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