49th TWC, Tob. Work. Conf., 2020, abstr. 13

Lower-leaf removal programs for flue-cured tobacco production in North Carolina

North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service - Davidson County, Lexington, NC USA

Sluggish demand for lower-stalk positions has prompted consideration for de-lugging programs in North Carolina. The agronomic impact of these leaf removal systems has not been fully reported. The objective of this research was to compare lower-leaf removal programs. Research was conducted in 2016 and 2017 to quantify the agronomic effects of three lower-leaf removal programs (0, 4, and 8 leaves/plant) and the subsequent delivery of four N application rates (0, 5.6, 11.2, and 16.9 kg N/ha above base recommendation). All treatments combinations were applied during the early flowering stage of growth (8-10 weeks after transplanting). Programs absent of leaf removal generally produced the highest cured leaf yield. The addition of 16.9 kg N/ha increased yield when compared to lower N application rates within the 4 leaf removal program. Nitrogen application did not affect yield in the 8 leaf removal program. Cured leaf value was greatest in the 0 leaf removal program ($US 10,131/ha) and was reduced in the 4 and 8 leaf programs by $US 1,611 and 2,645/ha, respectively. Lower-stalk positions were nearly eliminated in the 8 leaf removal program, while the 4 leaf removal program reduced their presence by more than 50%. Ultimately, if these programs are to be encouraged or required by industry, the removal of 4 leaves per plant proved to be more practical when paired with additional N, due to moderate yield reduction and lower-stalk leaf production. (Reprinted with permission)