Cultivation of Tobacco

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q.v. Harvesting, Cuban Tobacco, Tobacco, Cigar Manufacturing

The Vegas Finas de Primera have their own special style of cultivation, and the work that this entails is extraordinarily hard.

The farmer may have charge of half a million plants or more, and each must be visited more than 150 times in the course of the growing season. Every leaf on every plant matters.

The farmer’s year Work starts in the burning heat of June and July, and continues without respite for nine months.

Different fields are planted at different times so as to spread the burden of work in each season.

The time from planting the seed to completion of harvest is around 17 weeks for shade-grown plants, and 16 weeks for sun-grown.

Tobacco plants flourish in the loosest possible soil, so fields must be ploughed very carefully in a certain pattern to a certain depth several times before planting. Animal traction is still used, so as not to compact the soil.

Tabak Pfluegen.jpg

Seedlings are grown in special seedbeds, with a covering of straw for protection. Some are now grown by a new method, in floating polystyrene seed containers sheltered inside plastic-clad ‘tunnels’.

Tabak pflaenzlinge.jpg

After 45 days when the seedlings reach a height of 13-15cm, they are ready to be planted out.

Tabak umpflanzen.jpg

Some 18-20 days after planting out, the soil is banked up around the base of the plant to promote the development of strong roots, a process called aporque.

As each plant reaches the desired height, the top bud is removed (desbotonado) to concentrate growth on the development of larger leaves.

Tabak entknospen.jpg

Removing the top bud causes an explosion of side shoots. The farmer must make repeated visits to each plant to remove them. This is called deshije.

Tabak kontrolle.jpg

Wrapper leaves are exceptional in every respect. Some 10-20 days into the growing season, the fields are entirely enclosed under canopies of muslin cloth – a remarkable sight. Each plant is then individually strung to the frame.

Tabak tapado.jpg

Irrigation is critical. The plants must get just the right quantity of water at the moment they need it.

Tabak bewaesserung.jpg

Cuban sunlight works its magic to bring on the rich variety of flavours in the sun-grown plants that supply the filler leaves and binders.

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