In this article I will discuss tobacco suckers. What they are, they’re impact on the plant and the importance of removing them. Additionally, I will discuss how tobacco plantations worldwide control their growth.
Suckers are an evolutionary survival mechanism of the tobacco plant. As soon as the leaves grow to approximately ½ they’re full size, the plant starts to grow secondary leaves between the column and the original leaf. From this secondary growth, new, smaller crowns will grow from which flowers and seeds will follow, as well as two additional leaves (see photos below).
Figure 1 – Connecticut Broadleaf Suckers
Firgure 2 – Mohawk and Other Rustica Species Suckers
When the suckers are not removed, the plant reduces its growth on the original leaves as it spreads its energy towards growing the new leaves and flowers from the suckers. As a result of this, the growth of the original leaves is reduced and the total yield of the plant is dramatically reduced.
In fact, every day that suckers are allowed to grow, the plant loses approximately 1% of its total tobacco yield (this is 1% /day for each day the suckers are allowed to be on the plant).
Thus, removing suckers – will allow the plant to focus its energy on the original leaves which will grow significantly larger to what they would be if the suckers where left.
The photos below demonstrate this. The three Connecticut Broadleaf plants in the photos are all the same age, from the same seed and planted outside at exactly the same day. To make things more interesting the one with the suckers was planted in a larger pot (20L) than the other 2 (15L). The photos were also taken on the same day.
Figure 3 – Connecticut Broadleaf Plants With Suckers And Crown Removed
Figure 4 – Connecticut Broadleaf Plant With Crown and Suckers
The crown of the plant works in almost the exact same way. IF removed, the plant will be shorter (see photos above) but the energy of the plant will be focused on growing the remaining leaves.
However, be careful when removing the crown of the plant. This should be done right before it starts to develop flower, not right after the crown starts to develop. Additionally be careful not to remove the 2 Ligero leaves which are full of flavor. These leaves are usually situated on each side of the crown as it develops. As soon as the crown and suckers are removed these leaves will grow to a respectable size, also since these are the leaves that will represent the last harvest before the plant is removed, they will grow significantly larger than what they were before the crown was removed.
Some important notes on suckers and plant crowns:
- As soon as the suckers are removed the plant will start “fighting” you. Very soon after the plant will start to develop new suckers. The new suckers will grow very fast so make sure you stay on top of them.
- The way that sucker growth is controlled in larger plantations is with the use of diluted antiseptic or alcohol solutions. Once the suckers are removed from the plants column, a small amount of diluted alcohol or antiseptic solution is placed on a cotton bud and then the location where the sucker used to be is tapped down lightly to sterilize the wound. Once this is done the location that has been sterilized will grow any more suckers.
- Once the crown is removed it will not redevelop elsewhere.
- Leaving all or some suckers on the plant will not increase the yield of seed, it will reduce it and with some species of tobacco it will also reduce the quality of the seeds. Usually the best quality of seeds is collected from the crown of the plant, this is not true for most species of tobacco though, were the seed collected from the entirety of the plant is proportional to the quality and strength of the tobacco plant itself.
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