Impact of Nitrogen Fertilization Rate on Cured Leaf Quality and Chemistry of Flue-Cured Tobacco

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Virginia Tech

Proper nitrogen fertilization is important for both yield and cured leaf quality of flue-cured tobacco. Optimizing the yield of high-quality tobacco is critical for grower profitability. A field study was conducted at the Virginia Tech Southern Piedmont Center near Blackstone, Virginia to investigate the relationship between nitrogen (N) fertilization rate and the yield and quality of flue-cured tobacco. Six varieties were evaluated at N rates of 62, 72, 82, and 92 lbs. per acre. Petiole sap nitrate levels tested at topping time were correlated with increasing N fertilization rates. Nitrate levels measured in the cured tobacco were significantly higher with 82 and 92 N rates indicating a negative effect on proper leaf ripening. No response was observed for cured leaf yield to N fertilization rate. However, cured leaf quality was adversely impacted by 82 and 92 lbs. per acre of N. Results of this field test emphasize that proper N fertilization is critical for cured leaf quality and has a direct impact to the marketability of the tobacco and, ultimately, grower profitability.