The year 1613 marks the birth of tobacco as Virginia’s top cash crop. After the mid 1980’s, the economic agricultural landscape of Virginia began shifting away from tobacco in response to lawsuits and new laws. Today, tobacco continues to play an important socioeconomic role in Virginia’s farming communities, however it is no longer the top cash crop.
When fully grown, the tobacco plant is between 5 to 7 feet tall. The plant consists of large leaves with a cluster of flowers at the top. In Virginia, the leaves are ready for harvesting in late September, or early October; however in states such as Georgia, harvest occurs in late July, or early August. The bottommost leaves are tougher and receive more wear and tear than leaves further up the plant, which negatively affects their value.
This crop drains nutrients from the soil, they are replenished via:
- The addition of manure (humus).
- Fallow for twenty years.
Twenty years of recovery time explains the need for tobacco farms to be large, otherwise they would not be able to produce a crop every year.
Three pests have been identified as significantly impacting the growth and sale of tobacco: Aphids, Hornworms (two varieties: tomato, tobacco), and Tobacco Budworms. There are few, if any, tobacco farms remaining in Northern Virginia, but their pests (they eat more plants than tobacco) remain.