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Tobacco

by Carol Barford
Published: Last Updated on
Tobacco

Tobacco plants are annual, meaning they complete their lifecycle within one year. They grow best in warm, humid environments and require well-drained, fertile soil. Tobacco plants are typically grown from seeds, which are planted in seedbeds and then transplanted to the field once they have reached a certain size.

Tobacco is a plant that is grown for its leaves, which are dried and fermented to create tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, and snuff. The tobacco plant is native to the Americas and was first cultivated by indigenous peoples there for use in religious ceremonies and as a medicinal plant.

Global Tobacco Importance

There are a wide range of statistics available on tobacco and tobacco use. Some key statistics include:

Tobacco is a widely cultivated crop, and global tobacco production was estimated at around 7.2 million metric tons in 2020. China is the largest producer of tobacco, followed by India and Brazil.

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Tobacco is widely consumed around the world, and global tobacco consumption was estimated at around 6.2 trillion cigarettes in 2020. The top three countries with the highest tobacco consumption per capita are China, Indonesia, and Russia.

Tobacco use is a major cause of preventable deaths and diseases globally. It is estimated that tobacco use is responsible for over 8 million deaths per year, and it is a major cause of cancer, respiratory diseases, and cardiovascular diseases.

The tobacco industry is a significant economic sector, with global tobacco sales estimated at over $800 billion in 2020. However, the costs of tobacco-related diseases and other negative impacts of tobacco use are much higher, and it is estimated that tobacco use results in economic costs of over $1 trillion per year globally.

There are a wide range of measures in place to regulate tobacco use and production, including laws on tobacco advertising, labeling, and sales to minors. Many countries have also implemented tobacco taxes as a means of reducing tobacco consumption and raising revenue.

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Scientific Classification

Tobacco belongs to the plant family Solanaceae, also known as the nightshade family. Within this family, tobacco is classified as a member of the genus Nicotiana, which includes over 70 species of annual and perennial flowering plants. The scientific name for the tobacco plant is Nicotiana tabacum. It is a species of annual herbaceous plant that is native to the Americas. The plant is named after Jean Nicot, the French ambassador to Portugal who introduced tobacco to Europe in the 16th century.

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Here is the full scientific classification for tobacco:

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Kingdom: Plantae
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta (vascular plants)
Superdivision: Spermatophyta (seed plants)
Division: Magnoliophyta (flowering plants)
Class: Magnoliopsida (dicotyledons)
Subclass: Asteridae
Order: Solanales
Family: Solanaceae (nightshade family)
Genus: Nicotiana
Species: Nicotiana tabacum

Botanical Description of Tobacco

The tobacco plant has a fibrous root system and can grow up to 10 feet tall, depending on the variety. It has large, alternate leaves that are typically green in color and are broad and oval-shaped, with a smooth or slightly wavy margin. The leaves are attached to the stem by means of a petiole, or leaf stem.

Botanical Description of Tobacco

The tobacco plant has white or yellow flowers that are typically trumpet-shaped and borne on slender stalks. The flowers are pollinated by insects, such as bees and butterflies. The flowers are followed by the development of small, green fruit, which contain the seeds of the plant.

The tobacco plant has a simple, erect stem that is typically smooth and hairless. The stem is typically unbranched, although some varieties may produce lateral branches. The stem of the tobacco plant is typically green in color, although it may turn brown or yellow as the plant matures.

Tobacco plants are typically grown from seeds, which are planted in seedbeds and then transplanted to the field once they have reached a certain size. The plants are then spaced apart and grown to maturity, which can take anywhere from three to six months depending on the variety.

Tobacco plants are typically handpicked at various stages of maturity, with the leaves being cured, or dried, through a process that involves hanging them in barns or sheds. The cured leaves are then fermented, sorted, and packaged for sale to tobacco companies or manufacturers of tobacco products.

Origin and Domestication History of Tobacco

It is believed to have been used by indigenous people in the Western Hemisphere for thousands of years. The first recorded use of tobacco was by the Maya civilization in Mexico, around 1000 BCE. It was used in a variety of ways, including in religious ceremonies, as a medicinal herb, and for personal enjoyment.

Origin and Domestication History of Tobacco

Tobacco was introduced to Europe by Christopher Columbus and other explorers in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. It quickly became popular and was widely cultivated in Europe and the British colonies in North America. In the 17th and 18th centuries, tobacco was a major export crop for the colonies, and it played a significant role in the economies of the newly independent United States.

Over the years, tobacco has undergone significant evolution and genetic modification to produce different varieties with different characteristics, such as different flavors and nicotine levels. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the tobacco industry underwent significant changes, including the development of mass-produced cigarettes and the use of advertising to promote tobacco products.

Today, tobacco is grown in many countries around the world, with the largest producers being China, India, and Brazil. Despite its long history and cultural significance, tobacco has been linked to negative health effects, and its use has been regulated in many countries.

Genetics of Tobacco

The genetics of tobacco have been studied extensively, and much is known about the genetic basis of its growth and development, as well as the genetics of the compounds that it produces.

Tobacco is a diploid plant, meaning that it has two copies of each chromosome for a total of 48 chromosomes. Its genome has been sequenced, and it is known to have around 45,000 genes. The genome is large and complex, with a size of around 10 billion base pairs, making it one of the largest plant genomes that have been sequenced to date.

Genetics of Tobacco

Genomic studies of tobacco have helped to identify the genes that are involved in the synthesis of various compounds in tobacco leaves, as well as the genes that are involved in the regulation of plant growth and development. This information has been used to improve the breeding and genetic modification of tobacco plants, as well as to better understand the genetic basis of plant-pathogen interactions and plant-environment interactions.

Tobacco plants are genetically diverse, with many different varieties that have been developed over the years through selective breeding and genetic modification. These varieties differ in their growth characteristics, such as plant size, shape, and yield, as well as the chemical composition of their leaves.

Tobacco plants produce a wide range of chemicals, including nicotine, which is the main psychoactive compound in tobacco and is responsible for its addictive properties. Other compounds produced by tobacco plants include alkaloids, flavonoids, and terpenoids.

Genetic research on tobacco has led to the development of genetically modified varieties that are resistant to pests and diseases, have improved yields, and produce different levels of nicotine and other compounds. This research has also helped to improve our understanding of the genetics of plant growth and development, as well as the mechanisms of chemical synthesis in plants.

Pests, Diseases & Weeds of Tobacco

Tobacco plants can be affected by a variety of pests, diseases, and weeds that can reduce crop yield and quality. Some common pests that affect tobacco include tobacco budworms, tobacco hornworms, tobacco mosaic virus, and flea beetles.

Pests, Diseases & Weeds of Tobacco

Tobacco mosaic virus is a viral disease that is transmitted through contaminated seed, planting equipment, or by insects. It causes mottled or mosaic patterns on the leaves and can reduce the yield and quality of the tobacco.

Tobacco budworms and tobacco hornworms are caterpillars that feed on the leaves and flowers of tobacco plants. They can cause significant damage to the plants and can reduce crop yields.

Flea beetles are small, jumping insects that feed on the leaves of tobacco plants. They can cause significant damage to the plants and can transmit viral diseases.

Weeds can also be a problem for tobacco cultivation. Weeds compete with tobacco plants for water, nutrients, and light, and they can reduce crop yields if not controlled. Some common weeds that affect tobacco include pigweed, lambsquarters, and morning glories.

Production Technology

Tobacco is a widely cultivated crop that is grown in many countries around the world. The production of tobacco involves a variety of techniques and technologies that are used to grow, harvest, and process the plant. Tobacco is typically grown from seeds, which are sown in seedbeds or greenhouses and then transplanted to the field when they are large enough to be handled. Tobacco plants are usually grown in rows and spaced a certain distance apart to allow for proper growth and development.

Sowing

The sowing of tobacco seeds is an important step in the production of the crop, as it determines the spacing and density of the plants in the field and can have an impact on crop yield and quality.

Production Technology

To sow tobacco seeds, the seeds are first prepared by cleaning and sorting them to remove any impurities. The seeds are then sown in seedbeds or greenhouses, typically in a prepared soil mix that is rich in nutrients and well-draining.

In the seedbed or greenhouse, the seeds are sown in rows and spaced a certain distance apart to allow for proper growth and development. The seeds are usually sown to a depth of about 1-2 cm (0.4-0.8 inches) and are covered with a layer of soil or mulch.

After sowing, the seeds are typically kept moist and protected from extreme temperatures until they germinate. When the seedlings are large enough to be handled, they are transplanted to the field.

The spacing and density of tobacco plants in the field is typically determined based on the variety of tobacco being grown and the intended use of the crop. For example, tobacco plants grown for cigarette production may be spaced further apart than plants grown for chewing tobacco or cigar tobacco.

Irrigation

Irrigation is an important aspect of tobacco production, as it is used to provide the plants with adequate moisture to support growth and development. Without sufficient irrigation, tobacco plants can suffer from drought stress, which can reduce crop yields and quality.

There are several different methods of irrigation that can be used in tobacco production, including surface irrigation, drip irrigation, and sprinkler irrigation. The most appropriate method will depend on the local climate, soil conditions, and water availability.

Surface irrigation is a common method of irrigation in tobacco production. It involves the application of water to the surface of the soil using channels or furrows. The water is allowed to flow over the surface of the soil and is absorbed by the plants through their roots.

Drip irrigation is another method of irrigation that is used in tobacco production. It involves the delivery of water to the root zone of the plants through a network of tubes or pipes that are placed at the base of the plants. Drip irrigation is an efficient method of irrigation as it minimizes water losses through evaporation and surface runoff.

Sprinkler irrigation is another method of irrigation that is used in tobacco production. It involves the application of water to the plants through a network of sprinklers or spray nozzles. Sprinkler irrigation is suitable for areas with good water availability and can be used to apply fertilizers and pesticides.

Fertilization

Without sufficient fertilization, tobacco plants can suffer from nutrient deficiencies, which can reduce crop yields and quality.

Tobacco plants require a range of nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, as well as trace elements such as boron, zinc, and iron. The specific nutrient requirements of tobacco plants will depend on the variety of tobacco being grown and the soil conditions in the field.

fertilization

Tobacco farmers typically use a combination of organic and inorganic fertilizers to meet the nutrient needs of the plants. Organic fertilizers, such as compost and manures, are derived from plant or animal materials and can provide a slow-release source of nutrients to the plants. Inorganic fertilizers, such as ammonium nitrate and potassium chloride, are typically more concentrated and provide a quick release of nutrients to the plants.

Fertilizers can be applied to tobacco plants through a variety of methods, including foliar application (spraying the foliage), soil application (applying the fertilizers to the soil), or through irrigation systems (applying the fertilizers through the irrigation water). The most appropriate method of fertilization will depend on the local conditions and the specific nutrient needs of the plants.

Pest control

Some common pests that affect tobacco include tobacco budworms, tobacco hornworms, tobacco mosaic virus, and flea beetles.

To control pests in tobacco production, farmers may use a variety of methods, including cultural practices, chemical pesticides, and biological control methods. The most appropriate method will depend on the specific pest species present, the stage of pest growth, and the local conditions.

Cultural practices, such as crop rotation and proper field preparation, can help to reduce pest populations and prevent the establishment of pests in tobacco fields. Crop rotation involves the cultivation of different crops in the same field in a specific order, which can help to break the life cycle of pests and reduce pest populations. Proper field preparation involves the removal of pests and the cultivation of the soil to create a pest-free seedbed for the tobacco plants.

Chemical pesticides are another method that can be used to control pests in tobacco production. Pesticides are chemicals that are applied to the soil or foliage of plants to kill or inhibit the growth of pests. Pesticides can be effective at controlling pests, but they can also have negative impacts on the environment and human health if used improperly.

Biological control methods involve the use of natural predators or pathogens to control pests. These methods can be effective at controlling pests, but they may not be suitable for all pest species and may require the release of large numbers of predators or pathogens to be effective.

Weed control

Weed control is an important aspect of tobacco production, as weeds can compete with tobacco plants for water, nutrients, and light, and they can reduce crop yields if not controlled. Weeds can also harbor pests and diseases that can affect tobacco plants, further reducing crop yields and quality.

There are several different methods that can be used to control weeds in tobacco production, including cultural practices, chemical herbicides, and mechanical methods. The most appropriate method will depend on the specific weed species present, the stage of weed growth, and the local conditions.

Cultural practices, such as crop rotation and proper field preparation, can help to reduce weed populations and prevent the establishment of weeds in tobacco fields. Crop rotation involves the cultivation of different crops in the same field in a specific order, which can help to break the life cycle of weed seeds and reduce weed populations. Proper field preparation involves the removal of weeds and the cultivation of the soil to create a weed-free seedbed for the tobacco plants.

Chemical herbicides are another method that can be used to control weeds in tobacco production. Herbicides are chemicals that are applied to the soil or foliage of weeds to kill or inhibit their growth. Herbicides can be effective at controlling weeds, but they can also have negative impacts on the environment and human health if used improperly.

Mechanical methods, such as hand weeding or the use of mechanical cultivators, can also be used to control weeds in tobacco production. Hand weeding involves the removal of weeds by hand, while mechanical cultivators are machines that are used to till the soil and remove weeds. These methods can be labor-intensive and may not be suitable for large fields.

Harvesting

The timing of the harvest is crucial, as tobacco leaves that are harvested too early or too late may have reduced quality.

Tobacco plants are typically harvested when the leaves are mature, typically after about 3-4 months of growth. The leaves are typically harvested by hand, with the lower leaves being harvested first and the upper leaves being harvested last.

tobacco leaves that are harvested

The harvested tobacco leaves are then sorted and graded based on their size, color, and quality. The leaves are typically sorted into different grades based on their location on the plant and their intended use, with the highest quality leaves being used for cigarette production and the lower quality leaves being used for other tobacco products.

After the tobacco leaves are harvested, they are processed to remove impurities and moisture. This is typically done using a combination of mechanical and chemical methods, such as air curing, flue curing, or fire curing. The processed tobacco is then packaged and sold for use in tobacco products, such as cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and cigar tobacco.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Tobacco

It is used to produce a variety of tobacco products, such as cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and cigar tobacco, which are consumed by millions of people around the world.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to the cultivation and use of tobacco. Some of the potential advantages of tobacco include:

Economic: Tobacco is a major cash crop that is grown in many countries around the world and provides a significant source of income for farmers and the economy. Some of the economic advantages of tobacco cultivation include:

  • High demand: Tobacco is a widely consumed product that is in high demand globally, which can lead to high prices and good returns for tobacco farmers.
  • Labor intensive: Tobacco cultivation is labor-intensive, which can provide employment opportunities for local communities.
  • Export potential: Many countries that produce tobacco also export it to other countries, which can generate foreign exchange and contribute to the national economy.
  • Diversification: Tobacco cultivation can provide diversification for farmers and can be a valuable crop in areas where other crops are not well-suited to the local conditions.

Social: Tobacco is a social and cultural tradition in many parts of the world and is used in a variety of social and cultural contexts. Some of the social advantages of tobacco may include:

  • Tradition: In many parts of the world, tobacco has a long history of use and is deeply ingrained in cultural and social traditions. For example, tobacco may be used in traditional medicine, rituals, or social gatherings.
  • Community: Tobacco cultivation can bring people together and create a sense of community, as it is often a social activity that involves the participation of multiple people.
  • Relaxation: Tobacco is often used as a means of relaxation and stress relief, and it can serve as a social activity that brings people together.

However, there are also several disadvantages to the cultivation and use of tobacco, including:

Health: Tobacco is a known carcinogen and is associated with a wide range of negative health effects. Some of the potential health disadvantages of tobacco use include:

  • Cancer: Tobacco use is a major cause of cancer, including lung cancer, oral cancer, and other types of cancer.
  • Respiratory diseases: Tobacco use is a major cause of respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, and bronchitis.
  • Cardiovascular diseases: Tobacco use is a major cause of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack, stroke, and hypertension.
  • Other health problems: Tobacco use is also associated with a range of other health problems, including gastrointestinal problems, reproductive problems, and eye problems.

Environmental: Tobacco cultivation can have negative impacts on the environment, including soil degradation, water pollution, and deforestation. Some of the potential environmental disadvantages of tobacco cultivation include:

  • Soil degradation: Tobacco cultivation can lead to soil degradation through the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and other inputs, which can deplete the soil of nutrients and make it less productive.
  • Water pollution: The use of chemical inputs in tobacco cultivation can lead to water pollution through the runoff of chemicals into waterways.
  • Deforestation: Tobacco cultivation can contribute to deforestation, as it often involves the clearing of forests to create new tobacco fields.
  • Pesticide and chemical use: The use of pesticides and other chemicals in tobacco cultivation can have negative impacts on the environment, including air pollution and the contamination of soil and water.

Social: The use of tobacco can have negative social consequences, such as increased absenteeism from work or school due to smoking-related illnesses and social stigma associated with tobacco use. Some of the potential social disadvantages of tobacco use include:

  • Absenteeism: Tobacco use is associated with increased absenteeism from work or school due to smoking-related illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease, and respiratory diseases.
  • Social stigma: The use of tobacco is often stigmatized in many societies, and users may face social stigma and discrimination due to their tobacco use.
  • Secondhand smoke: Tobacco smoke can have negative impacts on the health of non-smoking individuals, who may be exposed to secondhand smoke in public or in the home.
  • Addiction: Tobacco is addictive and can lead to physical and psychological dependence on the drug, which can have negative social consequences for the user and their loved ones.

Nutritional Properties of Tobacco

Tobacco is not a common food source and is not generally consumed for its nutritional value. In fact, tobacco contains a range of toxic compounds that can have negative impacts on health.

Tobacco leaves do contain some nutrients, including:

  • Carbohydrates: Tobacco leaves contain small amounts of carbohydrates, primarily in the form of sugars and starches.
  • Proteins: Tobacco leaves contain small amounts of proteins, including essential amino acids such as lysine and tryptophan.
  • Vitamins: Tobacco leaves contain small amounts of vitamins, including vitamin C and vitamin B complex.
  • Minerals: Tobacco leaves contain small amounts of minerals, including calcium, potassium, and magnesium.

However, the levels of these nutrients in tobacco leaves are generally low, and tobacco leaves are not a good source of essential nutrients.

Tobacco smoke, which is produced when tobacco is burned and inhaled, does not contain any nutrients and is harmful to health. Inhaling tobacco smoke can cause a range of negative health effects, including cancer, respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and other health problems.

Conclusion

Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) is a widely cultivated plant that is native to the Americas. Tobacco plants are annual herbs that grow to a height of around 1-2 meters and have large, green leaves and white or yellow flowers. It’s some potential advantages include economic benefits, social and cultural traditions, and recreational use. However, tobacco is not a good source of nutrition and is not generally consumed for its nutritional value. In fact, tobacco contains a range of toxic compounds that can have negative impacts on health.

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