Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of Agriculture

Degree Type

Master of Science


The removal of terminal buds (topping) and sucker control are two practices that have an impact on yield and quality of dark tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L.). Topping breaks apical dominance and encourages the growth of axillary buds (suckers). Following topping, growth regulator chemicals known as suckercides are commonly used to prevent axillary bud growth. Research has demonstrated that topping time, height, and sucker control method influence the quality and yield of the final product. Delaying topping past a critical developmental stage has been shown to reduce leaf yield. Topping height varies among geographical regions with most dark tobacco producers topping to a height of 12 to 16 leaves. Previous studies indicate that plants topped to 16 leaves had higher leaf yields than those topped to 12 leaves if late-season soil moisture was adequate. The opposite effect was observed when late-season soil moisture was below average because the small upper leaves on plants topped to 16 leaves did not receive the moisture needed for proper development. The moisture they did receive could have been diverted to improve the yield and quality of the larger, more valuable leaves if the smaller ones had been removed. Several options exist for chemical control of tobacco axillary buds ranging from contact to systemic materials. Performance of these materials is influenced by several factors including environmental conditions prior to and following application. Research plots were established at Western Kentucky University's Agricultural Research and Education Complex in Bowling Green, Kentucky to evaluate the efficacy of various sucker control methods and evaluate the effect of topping height on axillary bud growth. Data collection was completed in the summer of 2000. Three sucker control methods and three topping heights were investigated. The first sucker control method was a single application of a local systemic suckercide at topping. The second method was a sequential application using a contact suckercide at topping followed by a local systemic applied seven days later. The third method, which served as the control, was topping the plants but not applying any suckercides. The experiment utilized a split-plot design with 9 treatments and 4 replications. The plots consisted of two 7 m rows per plot, with 102 cm row spacing and 89 cm in-row spacing. Data collected include number of suckers per plant and kilograms of sucker biomass per plant. Statistical analysis indicated no sucker control method by topping height interaction; thus sucker control and height data are discussed separately. Suckers per plant and sucker biomass per plant did not differ among those plots receiving a suckercide application. Topping height did not influence sucker number or biomass.


Agriculture | Agronomy and Crop Sciences