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Dark Tobacco Update. 2008 TN Tobacco Agent Training, February 19, 2008 Andy Bailey Extension Tobacco Specialist Univ. of KY / Univ. of TN. Agent Training Topics Dark Tobacco. 2008 crop outlook for dark tobaccos Nitrogen fertilization Sucker control Production differences for dark tobacco

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Dark tobacco update

Dark Tobacco Update

2008 TN Tobacco Agent Training, February 19, 2008

Andy Bailey

Extension Tobacco Specialist

Univ. of KY / Univ. of TN

Agent training topics dark tobacco
Agent Training TopicsDark Tobacco

  • 2008 crop outlook for dark tobaccos

  • Nitrogen fertilization

  • Sucker control

  • Production differences for dark tobacco

    • Plant populations and topping

    • Harvesting / housing / curing

    • Double-crop curing

Dark tobacco in kentucky and tennessee
Dark Tobacco in Kentucky and Tennessee

  • Approx. 1,500 growers

  • $78 million in revenue for KY

  • $44 million in revenue for TN

  • Some production in

  • non-traditional areas in 2008.

  • 30 counties: 20 KY, 10 TN

  • Approx. 17,950 acres (up 12% from 2006)

  • 4 Types:

    • Type 22 Eastern Dark-Fired

    • Type 23 Western Dark-Fired

    • Type 35 One-sucker dark air-cured

    • Type 36 Green River dark air-cured










2007 dark tobacco production estimate
2007 Dark Tobacco Production Estimate

  • KY/TN Dark Fired:

    • 37.6 million lbs (down 5% from 2006)

    • 13,300 acres (up 12% from 2006)

    • 2826 lbs/A (down 15% from 2006)

  • KY/TN Dark Air-Cured:

    • 12.3 million lbs (down 7% from 2006)

    • 4,650 acres (up 8% from 2006)

    • 2644 lbs/A (down 14% from 2006)

2008 crop outlook
2008 Crop Outlook

  • Dark tobacco acreage increase at least another 12-15% in 2008.

    • Huge demand and marketing opportunities

    • 2008 production estimate:

      • 45 to 47 million pound dark fire-cured crop

      • 18 to 20 million pound dark air-cured crop

  • Burley tobacco acreage decrease

    • Major decrease in dark tobacco areas

    • Steady or slight decrease in other areas

Dark tobacco update

Nitrogen Rate Experiment

Christian Co. - Crofton, KY

Dark tobacco update
Dark Tobacco Nitrogen Rate Trials 10 trials over 4 locations and 4 yearsVarieties: NL Madole, DF 911, KY 171, KT D4LC

Total Yield (lbs/A)

Total N Rate (lbs N/A)

Possible effects of excessive nitrogen
Possible Effects of Excessive Nitrogen

  • Increased amounts of green tobacco following curing

    • Delayed maturity from excessive N in plant at season’s end

  • Swelled or “fat” stems

    • Nitrate loading of leaf midrib causing decreased moisture loss

  • Possible negative effects on cured leaf chemistry





Effect of n rate on quality and revenue dark air cured ky 171 hres springfield tn 2003
Effect of N Rate on Quality and RevenueDark Air-Cured KY 171: HRES, Springfield, TN - 2003

*Revenue values based on federal support price of grades

  • Revenue reduced by 51% by using 1000 lbs N compared to 150 lbs N

Kt d4lc bruce cline farm christian co 2005
KT D4LCBruce Cline Farm – Christian Co. - 2005

  • Very upright growth habit

  • Very high yield potential (4200+ lbs/A)

  • Good black shank resistance, no black root rot res.

  • Plant regulation on sticks critical

  • Stick spacing in barn critical (at least 12”)

  • Rough leaf texture

    • Differences in coloring, ordering

Dark tobacco update

PD 7302LC

New hybrid for 2008 from Rickard Seed

Good race 0 black shank resistance, no race 1 resistance

Resistant to black root rot and TMV

Yield and quality somewhat similar to NL Madole

PD 7302LC

Dark tobacco update

PD 7309LC

New hybrid for 2008 from Rickard Seed

Good race 0 black shank resistance, no race 1 resistance

No other resistance

Yield and quality somewhat similar to NL Madole

PD 7309LC

Production differences for dark tobacco plant populations
Production Differences for Dark TobaccoPlant Populations

  • Plant population: around 5,000 plants/A (+/- 250)

    • 40” row spacing, 30” plant spacing

      • 5227 plants/A

    • More leaf body in lower stalk positions

      • Heavier and more solid lugs, better seconds

    • Fewer plants to cut, spike, pick up, house, take down, strip

    • Less barn space required

      • 871 sticks/A (6 plants/stick)

      • 1,045 sticks/A (5 plants/stick)

Dark tobacco planting dimensions


VA 359

Dark Tobacco Planting Dimensions

  • Most common: 38 to 42” row spacing, 30 to 32” plant spacing

  • More upright varieties may respond differently to plant spacing (VA 359, KT D4, KT D8)

  • i.e. ‘Narrowleaf Madole’ vs. ‘VA 359’

  • 39” row spacing; 24”, 28”, 32”, or 36” plant spacing.

Dark tobacco hill spacing study hopkins co norris slaton farm 2003

At higher plant populations, yield/A , yield/plant

Dark Tobacco Hill Spacing StudyHopkins Co. – Norris Slaton Farm - 2003

Effect of variety (averaged over plant spacings)

Effect of plant spacing (averaged over variety)





Yield (lbs)/Acre (lbs/plant)








Plant Spacing

Dark tobacco topping and sucker control


Dark Tobacco:

Topping stage:

Bud stage to 50% bloom

Topping height:

At least 16 leaves

May be most efficient to make 2 toppings

Dark TobaccoTopping and Sucker Control

Dark tobacco update
Comparison of Bloom Stages and Topping Heights for Dark Tobacco2006 – Chris Rodgers Farm – Graves Co., KY

  • Variety: Narrowleaf Madole LC, set June 1

  • Fire-cured

  • Bloom Stage at topping comparisons:

    • Elongated bud

    • 50% Bloom

    • 100% Bloom

  • Topping Height comparisons:

    • 12 leaves

    • 16 leaves

Dark tobacco update

LSD Tobacco0.05 = 142 156 270 320 418 (total)

Total Yield (lbs/A):

4023 4253 3818 4214 3732 4184

Yield (lbs/A)

Bloom Stage – Topping Height

NL Madole

Comparison of Bloom Stages and Topping Heights for Dark Tobacco2006 – Chris Rodgers Farm – Graves Co., KY

Main effect of bloom stage on yield 2006 chris rodgers farm graves co ky

Total Yield (lbs/A) Tobacco

LSD0.05 = 296

*Data averaged over topping heights.

Main Effect of Bloom Stage on Yield2006 – Chris Rodgers Farm – Graves Co., KY

Main effect of topping height on yield 2006 chris rodgers farm graves co ky

Total Yield (lbs/A) Tobacco

LSD0.05 = 242

*Data averaged over bloom stages.

Main Effect of Topping Height on Yield2006 – Chris Rodgers Farm – Graves Co., KY

Topping style comparisons

Kerry Wiggins Farm, Graves Co., 2004 Tobacco

Topping Style Comparisons

  • Eastern district topping style: early topping, 12-leaves

  • Western district topping style: later topping, 16-leaves

Dark tobacco update

Influence of Bloom Stage and TobaccoTopping Height on Dark Tobacco YieldKerry Wiggins Farm – Sedalia, KY - 2004

100% Bloom, 12 leaves

100% Bloom, 16 leaves

When to harvest dark tobacco
When To Harvest Dark Tobacco? Tobacco

  • Does not show obvious signs of maturity

  • Maturity signs:

    • Leaves show a faint yellow cast

      • Faint yellow spots, then over entire leaf

    • Upper leaves thick/oily

    • Crack readily when folded

    • Minimum of 5 weeks after

      topping for most varieties

Immature Tobacco

Overmature Tobacco

Early maturity and physiological leaf breakdown
Early Maturity and TobaccoPhysiological Leaf Breakdown

  • Plants appear to ripen/mature early

    • 2 to 3 weeks in some cases

  • Appears to be precipitated by:

    • Warmer than normal temperatures in August

    • Intense sunlight

Holdability and harvest timing of dark tobacco

7 Tobacco






Holdability and Harvest Timingof Dark Tobacco

Narrowleaf Madole

Little Crittenden

PD 7312LC

PD 7302LC

PD 7309LC

DT 538LC

TR Madole




TN D950


KY 171

VA 309

VA 359

DF 911

Weeks After Topping

Harvest timing after topping narrowleaf madole dark air cured
Harvest Timing after Topping TobaccoNarrowleaf Madole, dark air-cured

*Average 2005 dark air-cured price of $2.15/lb.

Dark tobacco update

Total Yield (lbs/A): Tobacco

3114 3060 3434 3509 3606

Total Yield (lbs/A)

Harvest Timing (Weeks After Topping)

Effect of Harvest Timing on Dark Tobacco2006 - HRREC, Springfield, TNNarrowleaf Madole LC, dark air-cured

Dark tobacco update

Fire Curing Tobacco


Top vents Tobacco

End doors



Bottom vents



  • Sticks placed 9 to 12” apart

Dark tobacco stick spacing
Dark Tobacco Stick Spacing Tobacco

9-12” stick spacing for dark, 6” for burley

  • Older dark barns

    • 3 to 3.5 ft. vertical tier spacing: 18” spacing

  • Decreased risk of “sweat” or houseburn

    • Sweat = increased TSNA

    • Loss of cured leaf weight

    • Lower quality

Comparison of dark fired tobacco variety nitrogen rate and housing density 2007 ukrec princeton ky
Comparison of Dark-Fired Tobacco Variety, Nitrogen Rate, and Housing Density2007 – UKREC, Princeton, KY

  • Varieties: Narrowleaf Madole LC or KT D4LC

  • N fertility: 200, 300, or 400 total lbs N/A

  • Housing density: 6” or 12” stick spacing

Effect of variety n rate and housing density on dark fired yield 2007 ukrec princeton ky
Effect of Variety, N Rate, and Housing Density on Dark-Fired Yield2007 – UKREC, Princeton, KY

Total Yield (lbs/A):

3030 3269 3184 3140 3124 3192 3107

Dark-Fired Yield (lbs/A)

Total LSD0.05 = 221 270 221

Dark tobacco update
Effect of Variety, N Rate, and Housing Density on Dark-Fired Grade Index and Gross Revenue2007 – UKREC, Princeton, KY

Quality Grade Index (0-100):

55.5 38.3 50.1 45.3 45.3 42.2 51.6



Dark-Fired Gross Revenue ($/A)

Rev LSD0.05 = 786 963 786

Dark tobacco update
Effect of Variety, N Rate, and Housing Density on Dark-Fired Yield and Quality2007 – UKREC, Princeton, KY

  • KT D4 will yield at least 300 lbs/A more than NL Mad.

  • KT D4 has lower quality than NL Madole

  • KT D4 is more prone to sweat and quality will further decrease when spaced too tightly in barn.

  • Quality may also decrease at excessive N rates.

Fire curing
Fire-Curing Yield and Quality

  • Curing stages for dark fire-cured tobacco:

    • Yellowing leaves

    • Setting leaf color

    • Drying down stalks and leaves

    • Applying smoke “finish” to leaves

  • Yellowing done with ventilation and no fires

    • Open vents and/or use fans for 5 to 8 days

  • Fires started when yellow spots begin to appear.

    • All vents closed except those in the top of the barn.

    • Hardwood slabs covered with sawdust.

    • Initial fires increase barn temperature to 95 to 100F,

      RH 85 to 90%.

Fire curing1
Fire-Curing Yield and Quality

  • Color set when leaf midrib is still green but leaf lamina is uniform brown color.

    • 6 to 8 hrs to several days

  • Leaf drying

    • Increase ventilation (all vents open)

    • Heat increased to approx. 135, RH decreased to 75 to 80%

    • Lamina will crack when touched, bottom half of midrib brown (7 to 14 days).

    • Tobacco allowed to absorb moisture and then firing repeated until uniform color is achieved

  • Applying finish

    • Smoke deposits on the leaf add aroma and texture

    • Sequential low fires with no ventilation to maximize smoke levels and minimize temperature in barn.

Double crop curing
Double Crop Curing Yield and Quality

  • Increased stick spacing requirements on some contracts limits barn space

  • Curing 2 crops of dark fired tobacco in the same barn and season

  • Major savings in barn capacity

Double cropping
Double Cropping Yield and Quality

  • Time management:

    • Set 1st crop early May, second crop mid-June

    • Yield loss of 300-500 lbs likely on 2nd crop

    • Try to cure 1st crop in 5 weeks

    • Aggressive curing

Dark tobacco update

Double crop curing curing 2 crops of tobacco in 1 barn

Advantages: Yield and Quality

Major cost savings for barns

Fewer needed

Easier to keep labor force occupied

Barns can be consolidated closer to tobacco

Companies receiving earlier to accommodate early crop stripping


More management required

Tighter window of opportunity

Operations must be timely

All barns will not work

Curing conditions may not be ideal, particularly 2nd crop.

Steamers or misting systems must be available for takedown

Still need 2 barns worth of sticks

Where to store 1st crop during second curing

Double-Crop CuringCuring 2 crops of tobacco in 1 barn

*See new UK / UT Extension publication: AGR-196

Black shank
Black Shank Yield and Quality

  • Even with newer varieties, we still need to:

    • Practice good crop rotation

      • At least 2 years of grass between tobacco crops

    • Continue to use fungicides

      • Ridomil or Ultra Flourish

      • Preplant or layby or both

    • Use good equipment sanitation

      • Don’t wait until black shank spreads to start cleaning equipment

      • 10% bleach solution

Applications black shank fungicide trial christian co 2006
Applications Yield and QualityBlack Shank Fungicide Trial - Christian Co. 2006

  • PPI applications made June 21 prior to setting on June 22

    • Broadcast (BC) applied at 15 gal/A

  • 1st cultivation (July 10) and Layby (July 28) applications

    • Directed 15” band on each side of rows, 15 gal/A

  • Basal applications made August 2

    • 2 oz spray solution applied around base of each living plant

    • Approx. 81 gal/A if applied to all plants

    • Black shank already very severe at the time of Layby and Basal applications

  • Tobacco stand counts taken but trial not harvested due to black shank

Dark tobacco update
Effect of Ridomil on Dark Tobacco Yield settingIn Absence of Black Shank2007 Dark Tobacco Rotational Trial, HRREC, Springfield, TN

Total Fire-Cured Yield (lbs/A)


1 pt/A Ridomil

NL Madole LC

1 pt/A Ridomil

NL Madole LC

No Ridomil


No Ridomil

1st year tobacco

Dark tobacco update
Effect of Ridomil on Dark Tobacco Yield settingIn Absence of Black Shank – NL Madole LC2007 Ridomil/Quadris Trial, MSU, Murray, KY

Total Yield (lbs/A):

3567 3580 3779 3576 3673

Fire-Cured Yield (lbs/A)

1 pt Ridomil

1 pt Quadris

1 pt Ridomil

2 pt Quadris

1 pt Ridomil

3 pt Ridomil

2 pt Ridomil

Dark tobacco variety performance under black shank pressure kent boyd farm christian co ky 2006
Dark Tobacco Variety Performance Under Black Shank Pressure settingKent Boyd Farm – Christian Co., KY - 2006


PD 302H

PD 309H

PD 318H



NL Madole LC

DT 538LC

NC 71 (flue)

RCBD with 4 replications

No Ridomil

Set June 26

44” rows, 29” plant spacing

Approx. 4916 plants/A

Stand counts taken throughout the season

July 10

August 2

September 14

Harvested October 23

Minimal frost damage

Dark tobacco update
Variety Performance with Black Shank settingPlant Survival During SeasonKent Boyd Farm – Christian Co., KY - 2006

LSD0.05 = 9 10 11

% Stand

By Variety



Variety performance with black shank dark fired yield kent boyd farm christian co ky 2006
Variety Performance with Black Shank settingDark-Fired Yield – Kent Boyd Farm, Christian Co., KY2006

LSD0.05 = 92 112 301 418 (total)

Total Yield (lbs/A):

2079 2190 2402 1632 1318 0 1858 2545

Yield (lbs/A)



Dark tobacco update

PD7302LC setting


NL Madole LC

Dark tobacco update

KT D6LC setting

Dark tobacco update

PD 7302LC setting

Manual sucker control
Manual Sucker control setting

  • Very labor intensive

    • Manual stalk rundown

    • 2 to 3 applications

    • MH discouraged for dark

    • Average 5 man hrs/acre

  • Worker Protection Issues

  • Research/Extension:

    Develop spray methods

    • Effective long-term sucker control

    • Preserve leaf quality

      • Timing and coverage

      • Spray volume

      • Reduced MH rates

Sucker control
Sucker Control setting

  • MH is most effective sucker control chemical available

    • Leaf residue concerns

    • Leaf coloring problems when used on dark at high rates too early

    • Yield loss from applications made at topping?

  • Sucker control without MH

    • Multiple applications of fatty alcohols, use of local systemic

      • Fatty alcohol followed by fatty alcohol + local systemic

      • 2 fatty alcohol applications followed by local systemic

      • Applications made at least every 7 days

    • Coverage of all leaf axils critical

      • Timely applications on straight tobacco

      • Spray volume at least 50 gal/A

    • Stalk rundown applications (drop lines or backpacks) most consistent

Sucker control recommendations
Sucker Control Recommendations setting

  • Top on time, pull all suckers longer than 1 inch

  • If using MH:

    • Contact fatty alcohol at topping

    • MH (1.5 gal) + Butralin, Prime+, or Flupro at 7 days

    • Use coarse nozzles (TG5, etc.), at least 50 gal/A

  • If not using MH:

    • Option 1: dropline or back pack

      • Contact at topping, Prime+ or Butralin + contact at 7 days

    • Option 2: if spraying:

      • Spray contact at topping

      • Prime+ or Butralin alone or tank mix with contact at 7 days

    • Maximize coverage on all leaf axils, 55 to 70 gal/A

Don t treat dark like it s burley
Don’t Treat Dark settingLike it’s Burley

Yellowing, stunting,

and yield loss from

MH at topping.

Dark tobacco efficiency use of mh
Dark Tobacco Efficiency settingUse of MH

  • MH application timing and rate

    • Do not apply at topping

      • Contact fatty alcohol at topping

      • Wait at least 7 days after topping before using MH

    • Rate: 5 to 6 qts/A (1.25 to 1.5 gal/A) of regular conc. MH

      • With or without local systemic (Butralin or Prime+ at 2 qts/A)

    • Allows upper stalk positions to fill out more

    • Prevents leaf discoloration

    • Increased yield compared to normal burley use pattern

Strip tillage practices for dark tobacco

Strip Tillage Practices for Dark Tobacco setting

Andy Bailey

Tobacco Specialist

Princeton, KY

Overview setting

  • 12-16” tilled strips, row middles no-till

    • 16” strip easier to stay on with transplanter

  • Ripper shanks and rolling baskets

  • Strips run in the fall is preferred, fluffed in spring

  • 2 or 4-row units

    • 2-row unit: $5600

    • 4-row unit: $11,000 - $12,000

Strip till p and k fertilization
Strip-Till P and K Fertilization setting

  • P and K fertilizer can be applied in the fall

    • Broadcast or banded

      • apply 1/3 less P and K with banded applications

    • Many sites in West KY in row crop rotations don’t require additional P or K every year.

    • Band fertilizer hoppers can be affixed to strip-tiller

Strip till nitrogen fertilization
Strip-Till Nitrogen Fertilization setting

  • Nitrogen applied in spring prior to transplanting and/or after transplanting

    • Broadcast ammonium nitrate

    • Broadcast Polymer-coated urea (ESN)

      • Slow-release: ~45 days for all to become available

      • Temperature and moisture dependent

      • $0.09 per pound N higher than normal urea

      • Soil pH dependent: need soil pH around 6.5

    • Could sidedress all nitrogen with UAN

      • 2 and 4 weeks after transplanting

Dark tobacco update

No-Till Transplanter setting

Dale Seay, Christian Co., KY

Strip till transplanting
Strip-Till Transplanting setting

  • Multivator run just prior to transplanting to freshen strips.

    • Small mechanical tillers on toolbar to match strips

  • Conventional transplanter can be used

    • Strip is much like conventional tillage

  • Small cultivators can be used to till edge of strips

    • Marginal benefit, usually not needed

Dark tobacco update

  • Dark tobacco has performed well with strip-tillage in the soils of west KY/TN.

  • 15 to 20 larger growers

    • Many exclusively strip-till

    • More growers each year

  • Yields comparable to conventional tillage in most years.

  • Larger benefit in dry years

  • Cleaner tobacco at harvest

2007 dark fire cured variety trial dale seay farm christian co ky strip till into corn residue
2007 Dark Fire-Cured Variety Trial in the soils of west KY/TN.Dale Seay Farm – Christian Co., KYStrip-Till into Corn Residue

LSD0.05= 84 153 243 345 (total)

Total Yield (lbs/A):

3781 4137 4030 4213 3564 3637 4166 4024 3979 3948

Yield (lbs/A)


Dark tobacco update

Strip-Till: in the soils of west KY/TN.

Sets like conventional tillage

Moisture conservation and cleaner tobacco like no-till

Air c uring burley and dark air cured

90 in the soils of west KY/TN.
























Air CuringBurley and Dark Air-Cured

RH %


Molds (more in dark air)



Stem drying

Color fixing

















Dark tobacco update

Websites: in the soils of west KY/TN.

Dark Tobacco:


Dark Tobacco Agent’s site:


Burley Tobacco:


Burley Tobacco Agent’s site: