Low nicotine burley tobacco: how low can we realistically go?
Proposed standards from the US-FDA suggest that nicotine should be lowered to non-addictive concentrations in cigarettes (0.3 to 0.5 mg g-1). One such method for lowering nicotine in finished products is to source leaf material with low concentrations of the compound. To date, research focused on lowering nicotine in burley tobacco has not been conducted in North Carolina. The purpose of our study was to pair four burley tobacco genotypes (HB4488PLC, TN90LC, ITB5101LA, and MSTN90LA) with two production programs (conventional production recommendations and low nicotine production recommendations). In 2020, cured leaf yield and quality were highest when the conventional production program was utilized (+425 lbs. a-1 and +3 indices points, respectively). The main effect of genotype was also significant for yield (HB4488PLC > ITB5101LA = TN90LC = MSTN90LC) and quality (HB4488PLC = ITB5101LA = TN90LC > MSTN90LC). Nicotine concentration in composite cured leaf samples was influenced by the interaction of genotype and management program. Nicotine was highest when TN90LC and HB4488PLC were produced under conventional management programs (49.55 and 35.80 mg g-1, respectively), and declined in low nicotine management programs (TN90LC = 11.76 mg g-1 and HB4488PLC = 10.69 mg g-1). Management program did not affect the nicotine concentration measured in MSTN90LC or ITB5101LC (0.51 to 4.14 mg g-1). Our preliminary results indicate that low nicotine management programs can reduce cured leaf nicotine concentration in genotypes with normal nicotine levels; however, those practices may not have an impact when paired with low nicotine genotypes. In addition, those practices are likely to reduce cured leaf yield and quality – which may compromise grower profitability and economic sustainability. (Reprinted with permission)