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ing out plants for seed, the earliest, the healthiest and most vigorous growers should be selected. The plants selected should be as nearly perfect as possible, the stalks firm and the leaves near together on the stalk. The leaves should be perfect in size, shape and texture, with small midribs and veins. When the plant blossoms, carefully and frequently remove all suckers and side shoots, leaving only the large clusters of flowers at
FIG. 25. WATERING SET PLANTS.
the top to produce seed; also remove two or three of the upper leaves to prevent the plant becoming top-heavy. If the weather is windy and the plant liable to lean, drive a lath near the plant and tie the stalk to it. When it has developed a good head and the earliest seed pods begin to turn brown, pinch off all remaining blossoms and small seed buds, and continue to do so if any blossoms appeal- later on. The ideal seed would be taken from the central cluster of capsules of a well-developed and carefully selected plant. A smaller quantity of seed will be obtained, but it will be plump and healthy. The great object is to force all the strength of the plant into the production of a limited number of very nice seed, and great care should be taken to keep the plant growing vigorously until this is attained. If there is danger of early frost, the plant can be covered at night with a flour or grain sack, or newspapers pinned around it. Should there be any danger of a freeze before the seeds are ripe, wet the roots and pull up the plants, with the dirt adhering to the roots, and carefully place in a warm, dry barn, and the seed will mature from the juices in the stalk and roots.
When the seed is ripe, which is shown by the seed pods turning brown, cut off the head with about a foot of the stalk attached and hang in a warm, dry chamber. When the bulbs and stalks are entirely dry, remove the bulb shell from the seed, and carefully winnow it until the chaff and all the lightest seed are removed. Some, however, do not shell the seed until wanted, claiming that it keeps better in the pod; in which case the pods, when dried, are picked and placed in a flour sack or pasteboard box and kept in a warm place until the seed is wanted for planting, when the quantity desired is shelled.
SELECTION OF SEED FOR SPECIFIC PURPOSES.
Some growers of fine cigar wrappers import seed from the best Vuelta districts of Cuba and grow it, as previously described, for four years in succession before saving seed for crop purposes, and then succeed in raising a uniform article year after year. Crops are never raised from freshly imported seed, because several years are necessary to thoroughly acclimate the plant. The idea that Havana seed should be used only a few years from importation, that it deteriorates, runs out, runs into seedleaf, etc., is disputed by many of the most skillful growers in the Connecticut valley, who believe that these results arise more from cross-fertilization than from any other cause. It is true that soil and climate gradually change the size and fragrance of the leaf in the course of a long term of years, but this change does not necessarily lessen the quality of the leaf for wrappers, if proper attention is paid to raising and selecting seed. They believe that the quality, instead of deteriorating, steadily improves under the careful cultivation given to it. There is an opinion held by some careful growers that it is wise to occasionally get seed from a different locality, say 50 or 100 miles from the section in which their seed has been grown.
TESTING THE VITALITY OF TOBACCO SEED.
Tobacco seed retains its vitality for 10, 12, and even 20 years, but many experienced growers believe it loses in vitality after it is 10 years old. The individual seeds, however, often vary in vitality, and to determine the proportion of good and bad seed, place pieces of dark woolen cloth on an earthen plate, sprinkle some seed over these, cover the whole with more woolen, moisten it thoroughly and keep warm by placing on a mantel near a warm stove. In time, the seed will sprout, and the proportion of good seed can be determined, as the sprouts will readily show against the dark ground of the woolen. Another test is to drop some seeds on a hot stove, or other hot iron. The good seed will pop and hop around like popcorn, while the poor will lie still and burn. Still another test is to place some seed in the palm of the hand and rub it. If good, the seed will feel like grains of sand, and if bad, it will rub into dust.
The number of seed in an ounce varies with the varieties and conditions under which it was grown. We found, by actual count, 378,000 to 389,000 seed in one ounce of Tennessee-grown Burley leaf; each large seed pod, when properly fertilized and fully developed, contained about 5000 seeds, and an average head contained eighty pods. An ounce of Havana seedleaf seed grown in Massachusetts contained 287,600 seeds, and 308,820 were found in an ounce of seed of Havana leaf tobacco grown at Poquonock. A single plant can produce seed enough to set 250 acres, if all the seed germinated and the plants all thrived.
The field having been properly prepared to receive the plants, according to the directions for the various kinds of tobacco, given in later chapters, the work of transplanting requires the utmost care. Carelessness and neglect here are certain to tell seriously on the results of the crop. To avoid tramping down the bed, while pulling plants, it is a good idea to have a board as long as the bed is wide, this board to be one foot wide and one and one-half inches thick. Put short legs in each end and one in the center, this making a low bench to stand upon that will keep one off the bed, while pulling and weeding.
The most careful hands are set to work to draw the plants from the beds. In removing plants, wet the bed thoroughly, unless this has just been done by a good rain; take a common, two-tined dinner fork, or a stick sharpened to a point at one end; run this down by suitable sized plants and loosen them by gently prying under them. The plants should be drawn one at a time, so as to leave the smaller ones uninjured in the bed for future planting, and so as not to injure the rootlets of the plants taken. In drawing the plant, never catch by the stem or on the heart or bud, but always by the leaves above the bud. If the leaves are slightly bruised, it will not hurt the plants, as the leaves come off any way. Don't pull the plants one day and set them the next, as they will grow crooked and never do well. As the plants are drawn, they are laid down in straight