Production Tips

The growing tips are based entirely on the experience we have gained at the London Tobacco Market. For your best results and most information, consult your county extension agent and the Links section of this site.

There are many obstacles to overcome each year including wet weather, dry weather, insects, weeds, blue mold, black shank and so on. We talk to a lot of growers each year and have years of personal experience. Here are some ideas they have shared with us you may want to try next year.


The single most important part of a successful tobacco crop is the plants you start with. Start with good plants. Order your plants early to guarantee the best quality and selection. Start with healthy and disease-free plants. If you buy plants, get them from a reliable local source.

Make sure your plants are as disease free as possible. If you grow them, be sure to use your chemicals on the beds or in the greenhouse. If you buy our plants, you can be sure of several important things:

  • Tobacco plants will be grown in our greenhouses in London, KY
  • Tobacco plants have been mowed at least three times
  • Tobacco plants have been sprayed with Diathane or Mancozeb to reduce the likelihood of disease (Angular leaf spot, powdery mildew, etc.)
  • Tobacco plants have not been outside in the cold to where the bud has cold burn
  • We only use cleaned tobacco seed

Set your plants as soon as they are ready to go in the ground. Your best chance for a good crop starts with healthy, disease free plants grown locally.

If you have problems in the greenhouse, they typically are either too much heat, disease or stem rot. Float bed plants can overheat if the temperature under the plastic is not carefully managed. In addition to the chemicals mentioned above for disease, for stem rot you might try Chipco, Ferbam or Clearese 333. Always follow the label on the chemicals you use.

Soil Preparation

When was the last time you used a sub-soiler on your tobacco patch? Most tobacco fields are not adequately sub-soiled. You can significantly increase your yield if you will take the time to subsoil your tobacco fields every year. Drainage is very important to tobacco. If you do not subsoil on a regular schedule, your soil will become compacted below the level of your disc, water will not properly percolate in the soil, and your tobacco may be stunted.

Last year in one field I increased my yield by 30% and it was all because of time spent sub-soiling before setting the tobacco. Each spring, use your sub-soiler, run it with the lay of the land, and you should see results in your yield.

Use a soil test. Most soil tests will suggest more lime for your ground. Lime in the fall will more than pay for itself the following fall in increased yield.

Tobacco Setting

The setter water may be a most important part of growing tobacco. Everything you put in the setter water makes a gigantic difference on how the plant grows. We all should think very clearly about what we want out of our tobacco setter water.

Here are some things to think about.

  • Tobacco plants need water. Be sure to set with water and do not set tobacco dry.
  • The best chance to influence insect control is either in the greenhouse (or plant bed) or in the setter water. Many producers report great success with ADMIRE for insects. Some put ADMIRE on the tobacco plants in the greenhouse. Some put ADMIRE in the setter water. Both report excellent results in controlling insects, including aphids.
  • ORTHENE in the setter water still seems to control flea beetles best.
  • Liquid fertilizer in the setter water can have a big benefit in starting the plant toward growth. There are a lot of different ideas on which of these liquid fertilizers is best, but you should consider putting some in your setter water next year.
  • ORTHENE will reduce worm activity from cut worms, horn worms, etc. on young tobacco. Follow the label on these chemicals.


Apply the amount of fertilizer recommended by the soil test. Consider using liquid or water-soluble fertilizer in the setter water. Some farmers report outstanding results from spraying 10 pounds of water-soluble float bed fertilizer (20-10-20) per acre on knee high tobacco. This application works best when applied at first light in the morning, while the plants pores are still open. Do not fertilize after your crop has been in the field for 75 days, for this late growing season nitrogen will set the green color in your crop. Consider side dressing with either bulldog soda or calcium nitrate. These products produce higher yields and better color. The tobacco plant absorbs these fertilizers better than nitrogen.

Weed Control

Weed control is always a problem. Its easier to spray the right chemicals than work a gooseneck hoe. We all need a way to get rid of the hoe. Help is available. Many growers reported fantastic success using a combination of:


Most success with weed control comes from spraying these herbicides on top of the ground before setting. Some growers disc it in lightly and some growers do not disk it in at all. They just spray it on top of the ground and leave it the day before setting. Excellent success with weeds is reported from the labeled rate of one quart of COMMAND and 8 ounces of SPARTAN per acre, sprayed in combination at the same time before setting. Follow the label on these chemicals. The growers who used this had virtually no weed problem. There has also been successful weed control with PROWL and SPARTAN. The PROWL was incorporated with the broadcast fertilizer. Then the SPARTAN was sprayed on the soil and lightly raked in with a chain drag. Spartan cannot be incorporated into the fertilizer. I believe Prowl works better when sprayed on the ground rather than incorporated in the fertilizer, mostly because it must be within the top one half inch of the soil surface to be most effective, and your disc will usually be set deeper than this.


Many growers have reported substantial success with ADMIRE. Some put ADMIRE in the greenhouse on young plants. Some put ADMIRE in the setter water. Some sprayed it over the top of older plants. ADMIRE is systemic. It stays with the plant once it gets into the plant system. The most success with aphids came from ADMIRE. Hornworms and cut worms were more difficult, though many reports suggest ADMIRE may help with these insects.

Blue Mold

Blue mold is still a problem in some areas. ACROBAT is still one of the most effective fungicides for blue mold. ACROBAT can be sprayed over the top of tobacco and stops the blue mold on contact. It is expensive.

Two new products are available this year to help with disease. They are ACTIGARD and MESSANGER. Both products are plant stimulants that help the tobacco plant enhance its disease resistance and its growth. The yields from use of these products are worth looking into.

Black shank is starting to show up in more and more fields. Ridomil does help with black shank. Some growers report heavy concentrations of Ridomil on black shank plants prevents the spread to nearby plants. Good success in controlling Black Shank is reported with one pint of Ridomil per acre at setting, and another pint four weeks after setting. However, resistant varieties are the best bet against black shank. TN90, KT200 and KT204 hold up well. In a bad black shank field use a black shank resistant variety plus 1 gallon of Ridomil per acre.

KT 200 and KT204, a new variety, got some strong support from growers who grew it in black shank ground. They grow a lot like Tennessee 90. KT 200 has excellent growth and yield characteristics and may be the best bet in fighting black shank. However, you must be very careful with this variety at the end of the growing season, because if it is cut before it is mature, it may cure green or off color. It is late maturing and requires about two extra weeks in the field. Check with your Extension agent on this variety, which shows great promise. If you have any signs of black shank, use the most resistant variety you can find.


Most growers wait too late to spray for suckers. Spray when the first sign of suckers start showing, around 70 to 75 days after the crop went in the field. Try to spray your tobacco first thing in the morning while the dew is still on the ground. Follow the label on these chemicals.


A dry curing season tends to result in light colored tobacco. Many old timers call this paw-paw tobacco or K tobacco. This light color is a result of not coming in and out of case often enough. The tobacco drys out without curing out. To help your tobacco cure out properly in dry weather, consider spraying water on the floor of your barn at night to help bring it into case at night. It is the coming in and out of case that cures out the tobacco and provides the dark color in the leaves. Do not be in too big a hurry about taking it out of the barn, for it will continue to get darker the more times it comes in and out of case. Leave the crop in the barn until it has the color you want. The surest way to assure good color is in the field, by topping your crop early. Top early for the best color.

Generally speaking, the slower the curing process, the better the color. Any time you can slow down the curing process, you are better off.


Pull your crop in four grades. Graded out tobacco sells best. As an average, most crops will fall into a graded out total of 8% flyings, 22% lower stalk, 50% middle stalk and 20% tips.


The information on this page is supplied as a service of the London Tobacco Market. The London Tobacco Market is acting solely on its own to provide this information, and there is no express or implied warranty regarding this information. The use of any growing practice should conform fully to the label and the intended purpose. Your individual results may vary. For best results consult your county extension agent. For further information see the attached links.