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MANURES AND FERTILIZERS.
It is evident from the preceding chapter that the form, quantity and quality in which food is furnished the tobacco crop, opens up a vast field of vital importance. Yet it is only within very recent years that the scientific aspects of the influence of manures and fertilizers upon tobacco have been studied. But as the culture of this crop increases, as the area of virgin lands, contracts, and as competition for fine quality grows, the problem of feeding the tobacco plant is bound to command increasing attention. We therefore elucidate the subject as fully as the present state of knowledge permits.
Very little has been conclusively demonstrated, as yet, by the recently begun work at our southern experiment stations, and the state of the art of fertilization of southern leaf is well described in the chapters on heavy leaf and manufacturing tobaccos. The most accurate data are those furnished by the experience of the most careful planters in the Connecticut valley—some of whom deserve high rank for the truly scientific character of their work—and by the several years' results of the Connecticut (Poquonock) and Pennsylvania experiment stations' exhaustive tests. From all these sources our data are compiled.
Soil vs. Manures and Fertilizers.—The soil upon which tobacco is grown may have as great or greater influence upon the leaf as the plant food artificially supplied. The soils usually preferred for the different types of tobacco are considered in later chapters, and it must be noted that effect of manures and fertilizers will vary on different soils. Indeed, the soil is one of nature's wonderful laboratories. The actions and reactions that are going on in the soil—chemical, bacteriological and physical—vary with different localities and seasons. No hard and fast rules can be laid down, but each planter, who wishes to excel in growing fine tobacco, must experiment for himself. Certain general principles, however, seem deducible from the extensive studies of Mr. Milton Whitney, chief of the division of agricultural soils, United States department of agriculture, as stated in the opening of the chapter on cigar leaf.
Temperature and Rainfall also prevent exact rules in feeding tobacco or other crops. However carefully and liberally it is fed will be to little purpose if the weather is too cold or dry. Temperature cannot be governed, nor can too much rain be avoided, except by drainage, but drotith can be insured against. Over a large part of this country, tobacco and other crops suffer almost every season from drouth. In Florida, and the middle South, as well as further north, drouth is liable to occur at most critical seasons. The extensive tobacco plantation at Fort Meade, Fla., is therefore equipped for irrigation. Since such simple methods of supplying water to crops have been perfected, tobacco should not be without insurance against drouth.
Irrigating Tobacco.—Where the hydrant or aqueduct service cannot be drawn upon for the supply of water, to be conducted through hose to the field, reservoirs may be made, by scooping a hole in the ground on the nearest elevation, and pumping it full of water by means of a windmill, gasolene engine, or other form of power. The power used for such irrigating plants can be employed for many other purposes when not needed for pumping water. The supply of water can be from brooks, ponds and wells, and the cost will often be
surprisingly small. The first outfit of this character, we believe, was set up in Polk county, southern Florida, in 1896, and has produced remarkable results. See illustration of it in the description of the Florida tobacco industry.
In irrigating tobacco, great care must be taken not to supply too much water at a time. The overplus is certain to have a deleterious effect, making the leaf darker and heavier, and injuring its burning qualities as well as its flavor and aroma. A small stream run between every second row will be better than to run it through every row. The more sandy the soil, the greater the amount needed, and the more often can water be applied, with less injury to the crop. Irrigation has been so little practiced in this country that no special directions can be laid down, but each planter must experiment for himself, keeping in mind the peculiarities of his soil and of the leaf which he is producing. Irrigation is a great aid in getting a good "stand" of plants when the ground is dry at transplanting.
PRINCIPLES OF TOBACCO FEEDING.
Tobacco has been grown for a great many years; it was grown, and successfully, too, for the market of early times, long before the advent of artificial fertilizers, and when the whole science of modern fertilizing was unknown. In those days, of course, the only dependence was upon virgin soils, or barn manure, perhaps assisted by occasional dressings of wood ashes. The quality of the tobacco was then much more governed by the natural peculiarities of the soil than is now the case, for the native food supply of the soil was drawn upon to supply the elements in which the manure was lacking, or which the manure could not supply with sufficient rapidity to meet the requirements of the growing crop. Fortunately for the reputation of the crop, the market was then satisfied with a grade of leaf entirely different from that now demanded. The question of quality was, of course, important, but the class of goods demanded was not so fine and delicate as is now imperative, and what was a fine lad then could not now be profitably raised.
Now we find that the soil must be made rich in all elements demanded by the plant, and these elements should be in such a thoroughly soluble and available condition that the plants can assimilate them without hindrance. The plant is really "forced," just as market
FIG. 12. BRUSH ARRANGED FOR BURNING WHEN PLANT BED 18 TO BE HADE. (Tennessee, Kentucky.)
garden crops are forced, by promoting a luxuriant growth through the superabundance of fertility, kept in a state of constant availability by thorough cultivation. Tillage and fertilizing go hand in hand in the production of the crop.
What not to Use.—It is important to avoid applying to the soil substances which might injure any desirable quality in the leaf. For instance, it is going too far to assert that the use of chlorides invariably produces tobacco of inferior quality, for occasional experiments demonstrate the contrary, but growers will do well to