ISSUED: 1-64
J.H. Smiley and W.O. Atkinson

On the average, a ton of burley leaf will yield about 1,500 pounds of stalk, or a ratio of 4 to 3. In dark air-cured and dark fire-cured tobacco, a ton of leaf yields about 660 pounds of stalk, or a ratio of 3 to 1.
Tobacco stems are available in limited quantities in areas where tobacco re-dryers are located. Since farmers purchase the stems, good conservation practices are usually followed in using them. However, tobacco stalks accumulate on the farm where the tobacco was grown and cost the farmer nothing. Hence their value is not always realized, and the stalks are not always handled properly.

Table 1 shows the average amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium found in tobacco stalks and stems from a number of samples analyzed by the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station.

Table 1. Average Composition of Burley Tobacco Stalks and Stems
Total Pounds per Ton
N P* K* Ca Mg
Stalks 56 5 75 36 5
Stems 50 5 145 70 8
*Values for phosphorus (P) can be converted to P205 by multiplying by 2.29 and potassium (K) can be converted to K20 by multiplying by 1.2.

Since dark tobacco, both fire- and air-cured, is not fertilized at the same high rates as burley tobacco, the nutrient content of the stalks and stems is somewhat lower.
Tobacco stems are included in the above table since farmers in areas where redryers are located are interested in their value. These data refer to burley tobacco stems only. Flue-cured tobacco stems, also a byproduct of re-dryers in Kentucky, contain about 27 pounds of nitrogen, 5 pounds of phosphorus, and 110 pounds of potassium per ton.
Table 2 indicates the average total nutrients in burley tobacco stalks and stems that are available for crop growth during the first year after they are applied to fields.

Preserving Tobacco Stalks
The Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station found that 61 percent of the nitrogen, 38 percent of the phosphorus, 83 percent of the potassium, and 41 percent of the organic matter may be lost from tobacco stalks if they are piled outside the barn and exposed to rainfall during the winter months (Fig. 1 ). Thus, the greatest value is obtained when the stalks are kept under shelter until they are spread on lawns, gardens, or fields.

Table 2. The Average Amounts of Various Nutrients in Burley Stalks and Stems That Are Available the First Year of Application
Material Total Pounds per Ton
N P* K* Ca Mg
Stalks 30 4 62 15 3
Stems 27 4 116 50 6
*Values for phosphorus (P) can be converted to P205 by multiplying by 2.29 and potassium (K) can be converted to K20 by multiplying by 1.2.

If you must pile stalks outside through the winter, do not leave them under barn eaves where excess water will run through them. Stack the stalks in deep piles and cover them with straw or other crop residues to reduce leaching.
Whole tobacco stalks make acceptable bedding material in loafing sheds and feed lots under cattle and horses. The animals will break up the stalks so that they can be handled in manure spreaders and easily plowed under. However, stalks are not satisfactory in stalls that must be cleaned often. When used in dropping pits for poultry, the stalks should be cut or shredded.

Using Tobacco Stalks and Stems
If you spread tobacco stalks in winter, put them on lawns, pasture, meadow, or small grain fields where a living root system will pick up nutrients as they leach from the stalks. Fewer nutrients will be lost if stalks are spread on such fields in the spring. Loss of nutrients should also be small when stalks are spread in the spring and plowed under on land going into a cultivated crop. Whole stalks may interfere to some extent with tillage and harvesting operations before they rot.

Tobacco stems should not be used on tobacco land unless they are sterilized at the re-dryer.
If a mosaic susceptible variety of tobacco is being grown, the stalks should not be used on tobacco beds or fields.
Stalks from black shank infested fields should not be used on tobacco land, but may be used on other field crop and pasture land provided water from these fields does not drain on to tobacco land.