Effect of priming as a practice for improving yield and quality of flue-cured tobacco in Malawi
Priming of leaves improves yield and quality of flue-cured tobacco. A field experiment was conducted at three locations in Malawi during the 2013 to 2016 cropping seasons. The aim was to investigate the effect of priming bottom leaves on yield and quality of cured leaf. The trial was laid out in a randomised complete block design with a split plot arrangement replicated three times. The main plot comprised of three priming times, namely (1) Time of priming at topdressing, (2) Priming 2 weeks after topdressing and (3) Priming at topping. The subplots had three leaf priming levels, namely by the removal of 2, 4 or 6 bottom leaves. A plant spacing of 1.2 m between rows and 0.60 m within rows was used. All recommended agronomic practices in flue-cured tobacco production were observed. The results showed that there was a significant interaction between time of priming and number of leaves to be primed on the growth, yield and quality of flue-cured tobacco. The trial findings showed that priming four leaves at topdressing recorded 40 % and 35.9 % yield and first grade leaf above the control treatments respectively. Specifically, priming four leaves at topdressing improved orange proportions by 100 % and improved overall farm income by 26.68 % over the blanket practice. This study therefore confirmed that priming bottom leaves at topdressing time formed an integral practice for improved flue-cured tobacco production. It was confirmed that farmers benefit more when priming is done at topdressing by removing four leaves for improved yield and quality of the flue-cured tobacco.