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The most astonishing fact about the development of this industry, described in Chapter I, is that it has made the abandoned soils in the midland districts of North Carolina and Virginia the most valuable for agricultural purposes. The excellence of yellow leaf seems to depend upon the poverty of the soil, as well as its color.
This leaf grows at all altitudes from 50 to 2500 feet, and under isothermals from 60° down to 54°, from the coast to the western North Carolina mountains, along the French Broad river and beyond in Tennessee, between the Little Pedee, Santee and Wateree rivers in South Carolina, in more than a dozen counties of southern Virginia, also in West Virginia, southern Ohio, a few points in Kentucky, eastern Missouri and Arkansas. Indeed, this tobacco will probably be tried wherever the soil seems adapted. The State experiment stations, or private individuals, are testing this variety in Louisiana, Georgia, Arkansas and elsewhere, and in some cases with promising results, where the soils are most like the typical yellow tobacco soils named below.
The quantity of yellow tobacco produced was erroneously stated by the census of 1890. Mr. W. W. Wood has shown that for 1801, the North Carolina product of tobacco was probably 85,000,000 pounds, while the 1895 crop is returned by the United States department of agriculture as nearly 115,000,000 pounds. The yield per acre, under proper culture, varies from 600 to 900 pounds, and probably 700 pounds per acre is a fair estimate in B good year, this being double the yield reported by the census of 1890.
There is great rivalry between the districts, as to which grows the finest tobacco. For a long time Granville county, North Carolina, stood without a peer as to quality, but Durham, Chatham, Caswell, Person, Nash and Wilson now stand with Granville in the first rank. Warren, Franklin and Pitt are all noted for growing an excellent quality. The western counties of North Carolina make probably the best bright fillers and some very fine wrappers. Eastern North Carolina and South Carolina grow the whitest tobacco. The low, level, sandy areas seem peculiarly adapted to growth of that style of leaf. East Tennessee grows some very fine leaf, but the proportion of green tobacco is large. The southside counties of Virginia have a wider range of product, growing a much larger quantity of inferior tobacco, but some of the very highest grades of the yellow product. Every district has some peculiarity of product, which makes the tobacco easily recognized by dealers.
Wherever produced, this fact stands out with prominence, that the soils upon which it is grown are practically the same in color, in composition, in general texture, in porosity, in physical characteristics and in constituent elements. The opinions of the planters, as to the relative merits of the product grown upon old lands and freshly cleared lands, differ somewhat. New lands are preferred in every locality where this tobacco is grown, except in the midland district and in South Carolina. In these districts the farmers, by judicious use of barnyard manure and fertilizers, make the very highest grades on old lands, though all admit that freshly cleared lands with suitable soils will yield a very fine quality. A peculiarity of some soils is that they will make a very fine yellow wrapper for a year, or two,
but never afterwards, however much they may be coaxed. This, doubtless, grows out of an increased density, or compactness, of the soil. There seems everywhere to be a reciprocal relation between the color of the soil and the color of the cured product, for no case is reported in which a tobacco, having an orange, or lemon yellow color, has been grown, except on light colored, porous soils. Even the darkening of the color of the soil, by the application of too much stable manure, will change the product from a bright yellow to a mahogany, or mottled leaf.
This must be said, however, of the yellow tobacco product of nearly every region, except that grown on the very poor soils of Virginia, North and South Carolina, that it will blacken under pressure, while the typical yellow wrapper, grown on suitable soils in the last named States, will remain as bright and as stainless under the great pressure of the manufacturer's screw as if made of gold-foil. The poorer the soil upon which the tobacco is grown, the better it will bear this test, and this, to a great extent, is the test of merit and value.
Typical Soils for Yellow Leaf.—In the Champaign or Eastern district of North Carolina, where yellow tobacco is now grown, embracing the counties of Edgecombe, Wilson, Nash, Pitt, Greene, Duplin, Jones, Lenoir, Northampton, Wayne, Warren, Franklin, Johnston, Wake, Sampson and Halifax, the formation consists largely of uncompacted, loose strata of sand, and sandy and gravelly clays, generally resting upon marly beds of half-decomposed shells, a few feet below the surface. These marly beds often come to the surface along the bluffs, or in the bottoms of the stream beds. The country is generally level, or slightly undulating, except where the streams have carved out channels through the spongy strata. The soil is grayish in color, though when first cleared the surface soil has a darkish hue, derived from the presence of vegetable matter. It, however, soons becomes gray when intermixed by cultivation with the subsoil, which is usually yellow, sometimes gray, occasionally red, or brown; in contexture it is a clayey sand, though in certain areas clay predominates and it becomes a sandy clay. The timber growth is long and short leaf pines, with a subordinate growth of oaks of several kinds and hickory, and an underbrush of gum, dogwood, huckleberry, honeysuckle and trailing vines. Oaks predominate on clayey, and pines on sandy soils.
The soils in the Champaign or Tidewater districts of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, suited to the growth of bright, yellow tobacco, have an open, sandy texture and light gray color, with a yellow, clayey, or sandy subsoil, well drained, naturally supporting such tree growth as has been mentioned. These are not considered fertile soils. Indeed, a crop of ten bushels of corn, without fertilization, or 300 pounds of seed cotton, to the acre is a fair yield for them. They are all drift or transported soils, made up of decomposed, or comminuted rocks of the midland district, that have been brought down and ground up, leached, sifted and sorted. The oxides of iron and clay in finer particles have been carried out to the ocean in rapid, glacial currents, leaving behind the heavier and coarser, sandy material. This gives the essential conditions that determine their fitness for the production of yellow tobacco,—warmth and thorough drainage, aided by the negative conditions of the absence of iron, humus and an excess of clay.
The late Professor Kerr, from whose careful observations many of these facts are drawn, asserted that the early ripening of the plant was a notable peculiarity of the growth of tobacco in the Champaign district. The