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Organic Tobacco Cultivation, Farming Practices

Organic Tobacco Cultivation, Farming Practices

Organic Tobacco Cultivation and Planting Procedure

Today, we are going to explain Organic Tobacco Cultivation and Farming Practices.

Introduction to Organic Tobacco:

Organic Tobacco is just Tobacco grown without the use of synthetic chemicals, fertilizers & pesticides. Tobacco, the common name of the plant is Nicotiana tabacum. The Tobacco plant has a thick, hairy stem & large, simple leaves which are oval in shape. Tobacco is a plant that contains nicotine, a psychoactive drug that speeds up activity in our central nervous organism but has relaxing effects too. Tobacco is available in many forms, including cigarettes, Pipe Tobacco, and snuff or snus.

The Tobacco plant generates white, cream, pink or red color flowers which grow in large clusters, are tubular in appearance & can reach 3.5 to 5.5 cm in length. Organic Tobacco has the alkaloid nicotine, which is a stimulant, & harmala alkaloids. Dried Tobacco leaves are mostly used for smoking in cigarettes, cigars, Pipe Tobacco, and flavored shisha Tobacco.

Organic Tobacco Plantation.
Organic Tobacco Plantation.

Types of Tobacco:

Burley Tobacco: Burley Tobacco is air-cured Tobacco used mainly for cigarette production. In the U.S., Burley Tobacco plants are started from pelletized seeds placed in polystyrene trays floated on a bed of fertilized water in March or April month.

Cavendish: Cavendish is more a process of curing & a method of cutting Tobacco than a type. The processing and the cut are used to take out the naturally sweet taste in the Tobacco.

Criollo Tobacco: Criollo Tobacco is mainly used in the making of cigars.

Dokha: Dokha is Tobacco originally grown in Iran, mixed with leaves, bark, & herbs for smoking in a midwakh.

Turkish Tobacco: Turkish is a sun-cured, highly aromatic, small-leafed variety grown in Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, and Macedonia.

Perique: Perique was developed in 1824 through the method of pressure-fermentation of local Tobacco by a farmer, Pierre Chenet. Considered the truffle of pipe Tobaccos, it is used as a component in blended pipe Tobaccos but is too strong to be smoked pure. At one time, the freshly moist Perique was chewed, but none is now sold for this purpose.

Soil and climate requirements for Organic Tobacco:

For organic Tobacco 50 to 100cm annual rainfall & 15-20°C temperature during the growth period is ideal. Organic Tobacco cannot stand if rainfall is more than 100cm. After harvesting to dry the leaves it requires bright sunshine and dry weather, but not less than containing 8% moisture. Too dry weather is not suitable as the leaves break into little pieces.

Different types of soil are required for organic Tobacco. Bidi Tobacco is developed as a rainfed crop generally in alluvial soils, black clayey or loamy soils. Cigar & cheroot Tobaccos are cultivated on grey to red soils varying from light gravelly to sandy loams. The chewing Tobacco is grown during the country under varying conditions of soils. In quality, cigar soil must be mixed with sand. Soil must be well drained.

Leaf quality:

The physical and chemical properties of a Tobacco leaf are influenced by soil type, weather conditions, plant diseases, leaf position, and time of harvesting & curing procedures. A change in any of these properties can markedly alter leaf composition which in turn affects smoking qualities. High-quality Tobacco has large leaves with a high proportion of the lamina to vein & low nitrogen content at maturity. Nicotine content determines the quality of the leaf which has a considerable influence on Tobacco prices.

Depending on the position of the leaves on the Tobacco plant, the quality of the leaves varies. Leaves closest to the ground, known as lugs are generally the largest but are frequently contaminated with soils. From the lower middle of the stem come the cutters, the best quality leaf, which are large & with a low proportion of leaf vein. The other fraction is the leaf, the lamina may still be of good quality, but there is an increased proportion of vein & midrib, and the size is smaller. Finally, the leaves from the top of the stem are generally quite small. Because they are often immature at harvest, may contain quite high levels of nitrogen & can be dark in color. They are of lower quality and are known as small leaf or tips. Provided the crop has been grown under good agronomic practices it must be possible to produce good quality Tobacco leaf.

Propagation in Organic Tobacco Cultivation:

Organic Tobacco grows very well in a wide range of climates. Organic Tobacco grows optimally at temperatures between 20 and 30°C (68–86°F) in areas where there is a dry period to facilitate harvest of the leaves. The type of soil depends on the variety of Tobacco being grown, but the best yields are generally obtained in loam to sandy loam soils. Tobacco plants are easily damaged by waterlogged soils & quality can be affected by high salinity. Plants must, therefore, be grown in a well-draining and well-aerated soil. Propagation Tobacco is propagated from seed on protecting seedbeds or in the glass-house & transplanted to the final growing site. Seeds developed outdoors are protected for the first few weeks to prevent weather damage to the emerging young plants. Seedlings are transplanted after 30 to 60 days when they are approximately 15 cm in height. The young plants must be spaced 46–61 cm apart.

The soil pH level for Organic Tobacco Cultivation:

Soil pH should be maintained in the slightly acidic range 5.5 to 6.5 with an available calcium level five times that of magnesium. At higher pH levels, the occurrence of black root rot increases.

General care and maintenance in Organic Tobacco Cultivation:

The best quality organic Tobacco leaves are produced when the flower heads of the plants are removed, a process is known as topping. Topping plants promote the development of suckers which should be removed. Suckers are removed during the use of chemicals in commercial Tobacco production with some hand removal also necessary. Fertilizer and irrigation requirements of Tobacco vary with the variety being grown, but commonly, Tobacco has a requirement of 40 to 80 kg per hectare of nitrogen, 80-90 kg per hectare of phosphorous & 50-110 kg per hectare of potassium.

Tobacco Field.
Tobacco Field.

Soil fertility and requirements for Organic Tobacco Cultivation:

Soil conditions and fertility are very important for proper growth & development of the Tobacco plant. Soil fertility refers to the inherent capacity of the soil to hold in reserve air, water and nutrients. Soil fertility is basically controlled by the inherent mineralogy & soil texture as determined by location and geology. The dynamic parameters of soil organic matter, content, acidity, nutrient concentration, water availability, all of which are influenced by human activity & management.

The normal growth and development of Tobacco partly depend on the availability of necessary nutrients in the soil. In a natural ecosystem the nutrients are continually recycled, i.e. growing of crops, harvesting & removal of crops results in the net extraction of nutrients from the soil. Unless extracted nutrients are replaced, the production method cannot be sustained. The more intensive the system of production, the greater the need for the addition of nutrients through the function of fertilizers.

Read: Organic Cotton Production.

Traditional bed preparation in Organic Tobacco:

Traditionally, Tobacco is seeded into beds or cold frames and then transplanted to the making field when plants reach a height of five to seven inches. Seedling beds are located on well-drained sites that have been well cleared of weeds & trash. Sloping beds on the southern exposure, generate the strongest transplants. The seedling bed must be manured the previous fall, shallow-tilled, and planted to a cover crop if possible. This cover crop must be incorporated in early spring, well in advance of seeding. The seedling Tobacco bed normally receives additional supplementary fertilization. Rates vary depending on the kind of Tobacco being grown. Flue-cured Tobacco receives moderately high rates of fertilizer, burley, dark, air-cured, and shade-grown cigar-wrapper types receive low rates. Medium rates of fertilizer are provided to other cigar types & to aromatic Tobaccos.

Irrigation requirement for Organic Tobacco Cultivation:

Organic Tobacco on black soils is not normally irrigated, but the crop on light soils is given up to six irrigations. The irrigation water should not contain more than 50 pm of chlorides, as otherwise the leaves get burnt & other qualities suffer. In black soils, in adverse conditions, one irrigation on 40 days sold plants is recommended.

Cultivation Practices of Organic Tobacco:

Organic Tobacco is cultivated similar to other agricultural products. Seeds were at first speedily scattered onto the soil. Though, young plants came under increasing attack from flea beetles, which caused the destruction of half the Tobacco crops. Tobacco is often fertilized with the mineral apatite, which partially starves the plant of nitrogen, to make a more desired flavor.

After the Tobacco plants are about 8 inches (20 cm) tall, they are transplanted into the fields. Farmers have to wait for rainy weather to plant. A hole is formed in the tilled earth with a Tobacco peg, either a curved wooden tool or deer antler. After making two holes to the right and left, the planter would move forward two feet, select plants and repeat.

Tobacco is cultivated annually and can be harvested in many ways. In the oldest technique still used today, the entire plant is harvested at once by cutting off the stalk at the ground with a Tobacco knife. It is then speared onto sticks, four to six plants a stick & hung in a curing barn. Organic Tobacco began to be harvested by pulling individual leaves off the stalk as they ripened. The Tobacco leaves ripen from the ground upwards, so a field of Tobacco harvested. Before this, the crop must be topped when the pink flowers increase. In modern times, large fields are harvested mechanically, though topping the flower & in some cases, the plucking of immature leaves is still done by hand.

Topping and Suckering in Organic Tobacco Cultivation:

When the Tobacco crop is about half-grown, flower buds start to appear. These flower heads are removed or “topped” to prevent seed formation, forcing the Tobacco plant to focus on leaf production. The result is larger, thicker, darker leaves that mature more uniformly & contain more nicotine. Topping may be done by hand or with special machines that cut the flower heads & sacrifice a few leaves. Topping requires two trips or three trips over the field to catch all the plants.

Topping of plants stimulates the growth of secondary stems from the base and leaf axils. These “suckers” must be removed to assure uniformity and quality. While chemicals are obtainable to suppress suckering, these may not be allowable under organic certification standards. The alternative is the elimination of hand every seven to ten days. Suckering is one of the most labor-intensive activities in organic Tobacco production, as many plants sucker two or three times before harvest.

Organic fertilizers and Organic manures requirement for Organic Tobacco Cultivation

Organic fertilizers are fertilizers derived from animal matter, animal excreta (manure), and vegetable matter (e.g. composts and crop residues). Naturally occurring organic fertilizers include animal wastes from meat processing, peat, manure, slurry & guano.

Organic NPK fertilizer:

An organic N:P:K fertilizer can be slow-releasing and fast-releasing. Organic N:P:K fertilizers need soil organisms to break them down & release their nutrients, so they discharge quickly when the soil is warm & the soil food web is at its most active.

Worm casting:

Worm Castings are maybe the best single-constituent organic balanced N:P:K fertilizer. They provide quick-release nutrients for early growth, as well as slower-releasing nutrients to sustain growth during the season. They also provide beneficial bacteria & fungi to help your plants assimilate these nutrients.

Alfalfa meal:

Alfalfa Meal is a balanced organic N:P:K fertilizer that provides a steady release of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and some sulfur throughout the growing season. Most of it obtainable during peak growth, when crops need it most. It’s widely available, relatively cheap, light enough to use in container gardens, and doesn’t attract animals.

Cottonseed Meal:

Cottonseed meal slightly acidic, a good option for acid-loving plants like berries. May contain pesticide residues, though organic sources are available.

Soybean Meal:

Soybean meal is a high nitrogen fertilizer that contains low amounts of phosphorus and calcium. Local growing conditions tend to affect how fast this product is absorbed into the soil, but this process generally occurs at moderate rates of speed. However, soybean meal is fairly useful as a long time soil conditioner.

Organic Chicken Manure:

Excellent quick-release source of nitrogen. Poultry manure releases up to 75% of its nitrogen the first year in the soil, compared with 33% for most other manures. 

Bulldog Soda Fertilizer:

Sodium nitrate is available to organic farms, but can only comprise 20 percent of the total nitrogen used in the certified organic system. Also known as Bulldog Soda, this product can burn plants but is quickly & readily available to plants.


It can be used as mulch or mixed with garden soil. It can be brewed into compost tea to use as a foliar feed. Gardeners who don’t have space for a large compost system can even obtain similar benefits from using worm compost bins under their sinks.

Read: Organic Certification In India.

Common Pests and diseases in Organic Tobacco Cultivation:

Pests and Diseases in Tobacco.
Pests and Diseases in Tobacco.

Tobacco leaf-eating caterpillar:

The caterpillars, when young, feed gregariously on tender leaves & juicy stems. It becomes isolated in the later phases of growth.

Leaf spot:

Bacterial diseases such as angular leaf spot also called “black fire,” and bacterial leaf spot also called “wildfire” can be problematic in seedling beds. Streptomycin & copper sprays have commonly been used in these instances.

Stem borers:

The caterpillars bore into stems & caused characteristics gall-like swellings on them.

Blue mold or downy mildew:

Blue mold in Tobacco is caused by the fungal organism Peronospora tabacina. Primarily confined to planting beds, the disease is a serious one that can cause complete loss of plants if not controlled. It is favored by wet warm weather, & winds easily scatter the spores over large areas.


Cutworm pests are an occasional pest of Tobacco in seedling beds.

Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV):

It occurs in all Tobacco production areas, where susceptible varieties are grown & it causes serious loss. 

Tobacco rattle virus (TRV):

The leaves are curved, spoon-shaped, with spots, necrotic rings & patterns, occasionally quite similar to the symptoms caused by TRV. Leaf tissues have a brittle texture & emit a dry sound when touched. Systemic necrotic lesions are visible on the stem & leaves.


By constant feeding on sap, the leaves look sickly & become unfit for curing. They excrete out honeydew while feeding on plant sap, where the sooty mold develops. The quality of such leaves so deteriorated.

Harvesting techniques of Organic Tobacco Cultivation:

Organic Tobacco is harvested 70 to 130 days after transplanting by one of two methods:

  1. The entire plant is cut & the stalk split or speared and hung on a Tobacco stick or lath, or
  2. The Tobacco leaves are removed at intervals as they mature.

The leaves of cigar-wrapper Tobaccos are strung using a needle, and leaves to be flue-cured are looped, using a string tied to lath or stick that is hung in a curing barn. To prevent breakage & bruising during the handling necessary in curing. It is wanted for the leaf to wilt without sun burning. Tobacco can be left in the field from a few hours to two days to wilt.

Reaping and curing in Organic Tobacco Cultivation:

Reaping must be done as soon as leaves are ripe to prevent them from getting over-ripe. Over-ripe leaves have low weight, hence low yields & quality. Tobacco curing is done in open barns and relies on natural weather conditions for the curing & drying process. As with the other Tobacco types, Burley Tobacco to undergoes the stages of yellowing, lamina drying & midrib drying. Because of reliance on natural weather conditions for drying, the procedure takes longer, sometimes up to 5 to 6 weeks. The important stages are coloring and lamina drying. The rate at which these stages progress will eventually influence quality. If humidity is too high & drying is slowed down, barn rot may occur and if drying is too fast, quality is affected. Visually, this appears in the structure of yellow mottling exhibited in different degrees. If drying is done extremely too fast, green color can be fixed in the leaf.

Curing and subsequent aging allow for the slow oxidation & degradation of carotenoids in Tobacco leaf. This produces definite compounds in the Tobacco leaves, and gives sweet hay, tea, rose oil, or fruity aromatic flavor that contributes to the “smoothness” of the smoke. 

Tobacco can be cured through several methods, including:

Air-cured Tobacco: Air-cured Tobacco is hung in well-ventilated barns & allowed to dry over a period of four to eight weeks. Air-cured Tobacco is low in sugar, which gives the Tobacco smoke a light, mild flavor, and very high in nicotine. Cigar & burley Tobaccos are ‘dark’ air-cured.

Fire-cured Tobacco: Fire-cured Tobacco is hung in large barns where fires of hardwoods are reserved on continuous or intermittent low smolder. Fire curing produces a Tobacco low in sugar & high in nicotine. Pipe Tobacco, Chewing Tobacco, & snuff are fire-cured.

Flue-cured Tobacco: Flue-cured Tobacco was initially strung onto Tobacco sticks, which were hung from tier-poles in curing barns. These barns have flues run from externally fed fireboxes, heat-curing the Tobacco without exposing it to smoke, slowly raising the temperature over the path of the curing. The procedure generally takes about a week. This process produces cigarette Tobacco that is high in sugar and has medium to high levels of nicotine. Most cigarettes incorporate flue-cured Tobacco, which produces a milder, additional inhalable smoke.

Sun-cured Tobacco: Sun-cured Tobacco dries exposed in the sun. This process is used in Turkey, Greece, and other Mediterranean countries to produce oriental Tobacco. Sun-cured Tobacco is low in sugar & nicotine and is used in cigarettes.

Grading and Stabilizing of Tobacco:

When the Tobacco leaves have been cured, the Tobacco farmer sorts them according to stalk position & quality and packs them separately into bales for delivery to the point of sale. At the point of sale, the leaves are graded by expert leaf buyers who assess leaf quality by checking variations in color, texture, and aroma.

Once the Tobacco has been purchased, it is shipped to a local processing factory where the leaves are further processed & dried for uniformity. After the drying process, organic Tobacco is pressed into cases for shipment around the world. Tobacco leaf may be stored for a number of years.

Read: Growing Noni Fruit, Cultivation Practices.

Last Updated: March 19, 2019
Author: Jagdish


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