Proper fertilizer is important in managing a tobacco crop for good yields and highest possible quality at least cost. A soil test is an excellent way to determine the amount of nutrients needed for each field. It also helps to keep the pH near the optimum of 5.6-6.0. Field surveys have shown a significant number of fields with pH less than 5.6. Greater than ninety percent of the samples had P reading high or greater, while 90% or more of the samples had K readings medium or better. This indicates producers should pay close attention to soil testing and adding lime to get the pH into a desirable range. This should significantly help performance of rotational crops. Approximately one third of the tobacco producers soil test on an annual basis. Fertilizing by soil test has proven to be extremely cost effective.
Most tobacco soils in South Carolina need 60-80 lb of nitrogen (depending on depth to clay), 40 lb or less of phosphorus (P2O5), and 120-140 lb of potassium (K2O) per acre. Phosphorus and potassium should be applied according to soil test recommendations. Using more nutrients than needed is wasteful, increases production costs, decreases profit and adds to environmental concerns.
County agent surveys indicate 89 lb of N, 85 lb of P2O5 and 184 lb K2O per acre were used on S. C. tobacco in 2005. The nitrogen rate has decreased from a high of 128 lb/A in 1977, but has increased in recent years.