Tobacco





The tobacco plant connects Indian agriculture with our own. It has

always been a source of great profit to our people. In the early

colonial days tobacco was almost the only money crop. Many rich men came

to America in those days merely to raise tobacco.



Although tobacco will grow in almost any climate, the leaves, which, as

most of you know, are the salable part of the plant, get their desirable

or undesirable qualities very largely from the soil and from the climate

in which they grow.



The soil in which tobacco thrives best is one which has the following

qualities: dryness, warmth, richness, depth, and sandiness.



Commercial fertilizers also are almost a necessity; for, as tobacco land

is limited in area, the same land must be often planted in tobacco.

Hence even a fresh, rich soil that did not at first require fertilizing

soon becomes exhausted, and, after the land has been robbed of its plant

food by crop after crop of tobacco, frequent application of fertilizers

and other manures becomes necessary. However, even tobacco growers

should rotate their crops as much as possible.






Deep plowing--from nine to thirteen inches--is also a necessity in

preparing the land, for tobacco roots go deep into the soil. After this

deep plowing, harrow until the soil is thoroughly pulverized and is as

fine and mellow as that of the flower-garden.



Unlike most other farm crops the tobacco plant must be started first in

a seed-bed. To prepare a tobacco bed the almost universal custom has

been to proceed as follows. Carefully select a protected spot. Over this

spot pile brushwood and then burn it. The soil will be left dry, and all

the weed seeds will be killed. The bed is then carefully raked and

smoothed and planted. Some farmers are now preparing their beds without

burning. A tablespoonful of seed will sow a patch twenty-five feet

square. A cheap cloth cover is put over the bed. If the seeds come up

well, a patch of this size ought to furnish transplants for five or six

acres. In sowing, it is not wise to cover the seed deeply. A light

raking in or an even rolling of the ground is all that is needed.






The time required for sprouting is from two to three weeks. The plants

ought to be ready for transplanting in from four to six weeks. Weeds

and grass should of course be kept out of the seed-bed.



The plants, when ready, are transplanted in very much the same way as

cabbages and tomatoes. The transplanting was formerly done by hand, but

an effective machine is now widely used. The rows should be from three

to three and a half feet apart, and the plants in the rows about two or

three feet apart. If the plants are set so that the plow and cultivator

can be run with the rows and also across the rows, they can be more

economically worked. Tobacco, like corn, requires shallow cultivation.

Of course the plants should be worked often enough to give clean culture

and to provide a soil mulch for saving moisture.






In tobacco culture it is necessary to pinch off the "buttons" and to cut

off the tops of the main stalk, else much nourishment that should go to

the leaves will be given to the seeds. The suckers must also be cut off

for the same reason.



The proper time for harvesting is not easily fixed; one becomes skillful

in this work only through experience in the field. Briefly, we may say

that tobacco is ready to be cut when the leaves on being held up to the

sun show a light or golden color, when they are sticky to the touch, and

when they break easily on being bent. Plants that are overripe are

inferior to those that are cut early.



The operations included in cutting, housing, drying, shipping, sweating,

and packing require skill and practice.





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