How to Grow Tobacco

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 Post subject: Emergency pull of leaves for frost, sweating to colour cure?
PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2016 10:11 pm 
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Note - this is my first tobacco harvest. I know nothing about tobacco harvest or ripeness.

We had temperatures of +2C last night with risk of frost. My tobacco plants are head high, so there was no covering them. They were topped last week.

I read that frost will destroy them, so I pulled any leaf that looked to be showing a tinge of yellow and then some that did not. This was probably 2/3 of the leaves on the plants. The frost did not come, so there will be more tobacco leaves, but what to do with the stack that I removed?

We have very low humidity here, and a sand lug I previously pulled and hung to dry dried crispy and green in 2 days. So that obviously won't work. I am currently sweating the leaves indoors in a pile covered by a towel. I just unstacked and rotated them today, some are showing slight signs of yellowing and most are still bright green.

I know sweating is considered a sort of advanced technique but I don't see any other way to dry these green leaves in our climate. I have a few questions for those with more experience.

- will frost completely destroy tobacco leaves, was pulling them the right thing to do?
- once picked, can leaves colour cure outdoors when temperatures may swing below freezing?
- when sweating, how yellowed should a leaf be before it is pulled from the pile? And once pulled, how should it be further dried?


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 Post subject: Re: Emergency pull of leaves for frost, sweating to colour cure?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 6:41 am 
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Joined: Mon Jul 18, 2016 7:20 pm
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It sounds reasonable what you have done.
I dont have any experience with frost and Tobacco, except for one.
I had burley withstand minus 2-4 degrees celsius of frost. No effect. The plants survived, the leaves didnt change in any way. The virginias died.
I had burley plants grow outside, in Denmark, till the end of December 2016 when hard frost set in and killed them.


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 Post subject: Re: Emergency pull of leaves for frost, sweating to colour cure?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 11:19 am 
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Joined: Thu Sep 16, 2010 3:41 pm
Posts: 863
Location: NE Washington
..."- will frost completely destroy tobacco leaves, was pulling them the right thing to do?
- once picked, can leaves colour cure outdoors when temperatures may swing below freezing?
- when sweating, how yellowed should a leaf be before it is pulled from the pile? And once pulled, how should it be further dried?"....

Yes, frost will ruin the leaves. Pulling them was the right thing to do. Better to try to color cure green leaves than losing them to frost.

Yes, once they are wilted down and hung under some kind of shelter, frost won't hurt them. But they color cure and dry very slowly in cool temps. I use my greenhouse for curing. The ideal temperature for curing is 90-95f with 85-90% humidity, which is pretty hard for most people to do. A green leaf will color up in 5-7 days at that temperature. Once colored you want to drop the humidity to around 70% and increase the air circulation or mold can set in.

Pile curing works well but you must watch your pile carefully or you will quickly turn it all to compost. You should take the pile apart and let it breath some each day and check the leaf. A green leaf won't mold because it is still alive. Once they have yellowed, or are mostly yellow, pull them out and hang them or mold will very quickly take hold and ruin the leaf and the whole pile.

You can use string or wire to hang them. I find tie wire or electric fence wire to work quite well. For coloring and drying in a dry climate, (and not using the pile method to color) pack the leaves closely on the string for coloring to prevent them from flash drying green. I put about 60 leaves on a 4 foot string and then fold it around into a wreath and twist then ends together and hang them that way. That keeps them from drying too fast. In a humid climate this would never work and everything would mold. In a humid climate you may need 1/2 space between each leaf. You want the average daily humidity to stay above 60% to avoid flash drying them green, and below 80% to prevent molding during the drying stage. This is a general range to shot for. If it goes above or below for a short time each day its ok. Once the green is gone and the leaf has colored, you want to dry it as fast as possible. I hang mine out in the sun (weather permitting) or in my barn to dry. You can untie the "wreath" at this point and hang the string so it gets better air flow. Let it dry until the main stem snaps like a twig before packing it away to age. Any moisture left in the stem will cause mold. Or just let it hang where you dried it and age. That's what I usually do.

Your climate sounds very similar to mine. Early frosts, but still have hot dry days during September and flash drying is a problem. Then it turns cold and rainy in October and getting it dry and preventing mold is a concern. Curing is a bit of an art and must be adjusted to fit your needs and climate. Once you find what works for you it will seem easy.

Hope this helps you some.

Sky


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 Post subject: Re: Emergency pull of leaves for frost, sweating to colour cure?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 1:30 pm 
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Thanks for all this info! These desired humidity numbers sound really high for me. Our weather starts dry and then only gets drier as winter comes on and all of the moisture gets locked up in snow and ice. In fall, we typically see indoor humidity levels from 50% in September down to 30% or even 20% in the depths of winter.

It sounds like I had better keep them in the pile until they begin to cure. Once they yellow, does it sound reasonable to hang them up outside where the humidity is higher but the air is much cooler? Or are they considered to be "colour cured" at that point, and can dry rapidly?


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 Post subject: Re: Emergency pull of leaves for frost, sweating to colour cure?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 8:18 pm 
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Joined: Thu Sep 16, 2010 3:41 pm
Posts: 863
Location: NE Washington
Keeping the humidity above 60% is really only important during coloring so they won't dry before the green is gone. A green leaf is still alive and you want to keep it that way until the chlorophyll is depleted. Because it is still alive, a green leaf can't mold, so the humidity can go up to over 95% during coloring. It does in a pile. After that, keeping it as low as possible is best. Anything below 80% should keep mold from forming on hanging leaf if it has decent air flow around it. Mold likes 90% humidity or more and warmth. Once it has colored you can dry it as fast as you can. You can even bring it inside and hang it in your living room. Wives really love that. The faster it dries, the brighter the color it will lock in. This is true especially of Bright Leafs. With a little practice you can dry them to a bright golden yellow that looks like it was done in a kiln.

Mold won't grow when the temps are low and below 40f. Winters here are very dry too. We have humidity in the teens, unless it is snowing. Its hard to keep it above 25% indoors and we always have a pan of water on the wood stove to put some moisture in the air. I always have leaf hanging in my barn when winter arrives that has colored nicely but still isn't fully dry. Especially the last pickings. But winter does a nice job of finishing it off by freeze drying it with no harm at all. And it will still age in cold weather, but it happens slower than in warmer weather.

Before I started using my greenhouse for coloring, I hung my leaf in an old shed with a dirt floor. I stapled plastic around the walls to help keep humidity in. To keep it high enough, I would just wet down the floor with a hose. Another good truck is putting buckets of water in there and hanging an old towel above them with one end in the water. The towel acts as a wick and draws water up which then evaporates off the towel. Works pretty good. Once it has colored remove the water and plastic and increase the air flow and dry it out. A fan can really help at this stage.

Bright Leafs, Orientals, and Cigar tobaccos are nearly always cured and dried on a string. But if you are growing a Burley, it gets much easier. Cut off the tops if you already haven't, break out all the suckers and cut the whole plant off at the base. Then hang it upside down somewhere under cover and let nature take its course. Stalk hung Burleys will color cure and dry all on their own, as long as you don't put them somewhere where it is very hot and dry. You don't need to be nearly as concerned with keeping the humidity up. The stalk keeps feeding the leaves moisture while they cure and keeps them from drying green. But with no roots it can't make anymore chlorophyll. Burleys are usually pretty easy.


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 Post subject: Re: Emergency pull of leaves for frost, sweating to colour cure?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 10:04 pm 
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Posts: 11
Thanks. A few leaves are starting to yellow today but they are not uniformly yellowed. I suppose all green must be out of the leaf before I pull it out to hang and flash dry in the living room? Doing this for the first time it's hard to tell what the endpoint is supposed to be. The goal is pipe tobacco and cigars.

It took a bit of research to determine what exactly I was growing. I kind of started growing tobacco on impulse when I was at the feed store and they had some seeds available. The only strain available was CT157 which is an "Ontario Light" tobacco. I had to look it up and it is classed officially only as "Flue-cured tobacco". Reading its pedigree it originates from Delgold x K326, and Delgold is a Virginia cross, so I guess this is a Virginia? It also is supposed to be capable of handling mild freezing temperatures!

Nuts, I didn't know much about the different tobacco varieties when I bought the seed. I think I can make a pure VA pipe tobacco but I don't know if it will make any sort of cigar.


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 Post subject: Re: Emergency pull of leaves for frost, sweating to colour cure?
PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 8:19 am 
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Joined: Thu Sep 16, 2010 3:41 pm
Posts: 863
Location: NE Washington
If they are mostly yellowed, I would pull them out of the pile and let them finish coloring up on a string and then dry them. They should be ok if you hang them in the garage or basement to finish. I say this because I know how tricky pile curing can be. They can go bad (mold) at this stage in no time in a pile if you don't watch them very carefully.

I don't have any info on CT157, but it sounds like a good strain. I would like to grow it to see how it does here. I would take the frost resistant claim with a grain of salt though. I have grown over 300 strains and only found one I would truly call frost resistant. I have found a few that can take an hour or so below freezing, but my rule is pick it before I lose it. Frozen leaf sucks.

This is all I can find on K326. Sounds like one I should add to my grow list nest season.
"K326 is a flu cured (bright leaf) strain developed in the early 1980's by Novartis Seeds by crossings of McNair 225//McNair 30/NC 95 "

Delgold I know well and have grown it a couple times now. http://nwtseeds.com/DelGold.htm

"Delgold is a superior flue-cured tobacco cultivar developed at the Agriculture Canada Research Station, Delhi, Ontario in 1980 by crossing Babor Rustica with two popular American varieties, Hicks Broadleaf and Virginia 115. The result is a high-yielding flu cured cultivar with a nicotine content of 2.2%.

Delgold is one of the best known bright leaf varieties and still considered one of the better yielding flue-cured varieties available for commercial tobacco production. It is fast growing reaching 5-6 feet in height, and produces large, wide, heavy grade light green leaves. Matures in 70-75 days."


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 Post subject: Re: Emergency pull of leaves for frost, sweating to colour cure?
PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2016 2:31 pm 
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Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2016 8:38 pm
Posts: 11
Pulled the rest of the leaves yesterday with a drop to -1C overnight. The last pile is now all hanging to dry, and the new leaves are piled.

Some of the leaves still dried with hints of green but the majority look to be drying a nice yellow. It's a learning experience all right! With our humidity, it appears that leaving them in the pile a little longer is the right option. I noticed people talk about unstacking the pile "until they dry off" but my leaves are not moist at all when unstacked.

Are little green sections OK or should the whole leaf be yellow/brown? Should I cut the green sections off?


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