Tobacco (Nicotiana spp.) is an important cash crop. It is raised for its leaves which are used as cured product. It is smoked as pipe, cigar, cigarette or hookah, and also used as snuff or chewed as a liquid in various forms. India ranks third in the world tobacco production and second in the flue-cured tobacco exports. It earns about Rs 577 crore by way of excise revenue and Rs 112 crores as foreign exchange. Besides, it also provides an employment to about 56 lakhs of people annually in its cultivation, curing, grading, factories and cottage industries. It also produces nicotine sulphate which is used as an insecticide.

Tobacco seed contains 35-38% nicotine free oil. It is used in making soap and colors. Its cake is used as a cattle feed. Cake contains 3% N, 30-35% crude protein and 20-27% carbohydrates. Some species of tobacco are also utilized as an ornamental plant.

According to utility

  1. Cigarette or flue cured tobacco (Virginia and natu)
  2. Bidi tobacco
  3. Cheroot tobacco
  4. Cigar tobacco
  5. Snuff tobacco
  6. Wrapper tobacco
  7. Chewing tobacco
  8. Hookah tobacco

According to curing to tobacco

  1. Flue curing
  2. Air curing or shade curing
  3. Sun curing Pit curing
  4. Smoke/fire curing

According to aroma

  1. (i) Aromatic tobacco
  2. Non-aromatic tobacco

Botanical Description

Tobacco is a herbaceous annual, grown primarily for its leaves. N. rustica is found sometimes to behave like a perennial.

Root system:

Tobacco plant generally develops a shallow branched root system. It has tap root from which numerous short lateral roots emerge. The majority of root system is confined to upper 60-90 cm of the soil.


It has a simple cylindrical stem. The height of the plant and length of the internodes vary in different types. Of the 2 species, N. rustica is shorter and more robust and densely growing plant than N. tabacum.


The size of leaves may vary from 15 cm to 100 cm or even more in length. They may be narrow, long and drawn out like a whip, elliptical or broadly ovate with marked variation even in the same plant. The leaf base may be sessile or petiolate differing in the development of wings having a breadth of 5-6 cm. In general, the texture of leaves of N. tabacum is finerthan that of N. rustica, which is more or less leathery and tough. The nicotine content of leaves of N. tabacum ranges from 0.5 to 5.5%, while in N. rustica, it varies from 3.5 to 8.0%.

Climatic Requirements

Tobacco is a tropical crop but also raised in sub-tropical and temperate regions of the world. Tobacco needs 50-100 cm well distributed rainfall throughout the growing period. Areas having a rainfall more than 125 cm are not fit for tobacco production, whereas a rainfall of less than 75 cm results in production of leathery leaves having very high nicotine content. The leaves remain smaller and possess very poor burning quality. Waterlogging at any stage of growth is very harmful.

The crop needs about 28oC as an optimum temperature for germination. However, it may germinate at temperatures ranging between 15oC and 35oC. The crop can not withstand frost, and starts withering or wilting at a temperature of above 35oC. Temperatures below 13oC are also not suitable. Relative humidity is one of the important factors for yield, quality and curing of leaves. The relative humidity of 85-95% is optimum for the crop. Areas with <50% relative humidity are not suitable.

Latest varieties


It is a Jati tobacco variety with a yield of 16-17 q/ha. It is recommended for cultivation in Jati-tobacco (chama type) growing areas of KPK


A FCV tobacco variety identified for traditional black soils in rain fed areas of Andhra Pradesh. It has shown a yield potential of 25 q/ha.

Bhairavi (NG 73):

A natu tobacco variety for rain fed areas of Pakistan

Soil and its preparation

Tobacco, in general, needs an open-aerated, well-drained, light textured soil rich in P, K and Fe, but poor in organic matter content. Sodic soils are not suitable for tobacco production, because the plants absorb a lot of chloride ions, resulting in poor burning quality of leaves. A mild acidic soil reaction is always better for production of superior quality leaves. Tobacco finished products and suitable soil types are given in Table 5.


Tobacco finished products and suitable soil types

Finished Products Suitable Soil Types
Bidi Light or medium loams of old alluvium origin
binder (cigar) Light sandy soils
Filter (cigar) Light sandy soils
Hookah (chewing and snuff) Sandy to silt loam alluvial soils
Wrapper (cigar) Distinctly heavy soils

Raising tobacco seedlings

Tobacco seeds, being very small, can not be sown directly in the field. Therefore, raising healthy seedlings is an important aspect of tobacco production.

Selection site for nursery bed

The nursery beds should always be made on a raised spot so that these do not get flooded any time. There must be an assured irrigation facility. It is necessary that the beds have sandy structure so that they are open and well aerated for young seedlings. To get healthy seedling, it is advisable to change the place of nursery every year, to avoid occurrence of soil-borne diseases and insect pests. It is always better to prepare raised beds (10-14 cm) on heavy soils for draining out any excess water from the beds.

Preparing the nursery beds

The seeds are sown either on raised (10-15 cm high beds having slopes on all the 4 sides) or flat beds of any convenient length and 120 cm width (preferably 8.0 x 1.25 m) with channels of 30-45 cm width between the beds. The seeds are very small and therefore require very fine tilth. The beds must be free from stubbles, weeds and soil-borne diseases. The beds must be sterilized before sowing the seeds. 10-12 beds are sufficient for 1 ha tobacco transplanting.

Sterilization of nursery beds

The sterilization of beds may be done in the following 2 ways.

By rabbing:

It is the process of burning of trashes, weeds or any organic refuse on the soil surface. For rabbing, 15-20 cm thick layer of paddy straw, leaves or weeds are uniformly spread over the soil surface and burnt.

By chemical treatment:

This treatment is done after application of organic manure in soil. Formaline solution of 2.0% concentration in water or formaldehyde takes care of damping off. Sometimes Bordeaux mixture, chloropicrin, methyl bromide and calcium cynamide are also used as fumigants or herbicides (calcium cynamide is used as herbicide).

Seed and Sowing

Seed rate

A seed rate of 2-3 kg/ha is optimum for all types of tobacco. Under hot weather conditions, a high seed rate of 4-5 kg is recommended.

Seed selection and seed treatment

The seed should be of high purity and germination for economic and healthy seedlings production. The seeds should be poured in a bucket containing water and the floating ones should be removed. Sometimes to protect the seedlings from seed-borne diseases, the seed is treated with 2.5% of formaline solution or 0.5% solution of dithane M 45 before sowing in nursery. Pre-sowing seed soaking in 50 ppm solution of gibberellic acid (G3) for 48 hours increases and hastens the seed germination.


The sowing time of seed in nursery depends on area and type of tobacco as given below.

Sowing time of seeds in nursery for various types of tobacco


Sowing time Type of tobacco
August-September July-October Bidi (Nipani area), cigarette, cheroot, chewing and cigar types
August-September Hookah and chewing
May-June Bidi, cheroot, snuff, chewing, wrapper
April-May Bidi, wrapper, chewing, snuff, cheroot
April-May Bidi, wrapper, chewing, snuff, cheroot
April-May Snuff, cheroot, chewing, wrapper
April-May Snuff, cheroot, chewing, wrapper
June-July Chewing
September Chewing
December Hookah

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