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Brown seeds for sprouting.

Natural Area Preservation

Daucus carota, a root vegetable. Isolated macro food photo close up from above over white. The taproot of a plant grows straight down and is very thick, vintage line drawing or engraving illustration. Fresh Beetroot A bunch of carrots displayed on a white table. A popular root vegetable full of vitamin A.

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A few remaining dandelion seeds on the head of a dandelion. Welwitschia mirabilis in the Namib desert, Namibia. Fresh cut crisp strips of Daucus carota, a root vegetable with orange color.

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Edible taproot pieces. LensBaby photo Dandelion Taraxacum officinale, The dandelion is a perennial, herbaceous plant with long, lance-shaped leaves. Dandelion plant Taraxacum sp. A bunch of carrots displayed on a white table. Fresh cut crisp slivers of Daucus carota, a root vegetable with orange color.

A picture shows Vicia Americana Plant.

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It is a climbing perennial forb that grows from both taproot and rhizome. They're so deeply detail of celery root plant on white background Tragopogon porrifolius or Salsify in flower Freshly Harvested And Washed Beetroots Plant Root Against Dark Background A bunch of carrots displayed on a white table with a knife and fork.

Most farmers mixed the minute seeds with some soil, and then spread it over the beds. The area was then "staked" and a covering -- usually linen -- placed on top to shelter the seedlings as they emerged. Seedlings generally took six weeks to mature. While the seedlings grew, the farmers would prepare the main fields for transplanting. This meant breaking the soil with heavy plows, followed by disking and fertilizing, and then making furrows. Mules were essential to this fieldwork, and often considered more of a family member then an animal. Before , one ounce of tobacco seeds planted about to square yards of a seedbed, and each acre of tobacco required 75 to square yards of seedlings.

This included all the seeds and seedlings that did not survive to make it into the fields. Today, modern greenhouses using hydroponics are much more efficient; an ounce of tobacco seeds now produces an average of , plants! Depending upon weather conditions, farmers would begin transplanting their tobacco from seedbeds into fields starting as early as April 1.

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Transplanting originally required three people: one to make a hole in the furrow with a hand peg, one to place the seedling in the hole, and one to add a water and fertilizer mix to the plant at the end. The invention of hand transplanters sped up this process. Soon afterward, mule drawn transplanters became available to those who cold afford them. They still needed three people to operate, but they rode the machine instead of walking and stooping. These machines are the direct ancestors of transplanters used today.

Between transplanting and harvesting, tobacco farmers had to weed fields, top the plants, and prevent pests from eating the crop.

Preparing the Seedbeds

Normally, farmers would run harrows down the rows to turn under weeds and push dirt against the roots of the tobacco plants. This also caused the taproot of tobacco plants to go deeper into the soil where moisture was abundant. When the plants began to flower, farmers snapped the buds from the top of the plant. In reaction, other buds, called "suckers," later emerged further down the plant that also required removal. Accordingly, farmers called taking the flower buds off "topping" and "suckering.

The Root System

The main pest farmers had to worry about was tobacco worms, also known as hornworms. Until the advent of modern pesticides, farmers would examine each plant in a field and remove the worms by hand. This was a job done by everyone on a farm, but most especially by the children. In late July and early August, tobacco harvesting began. First to be removed were the bottom few leaves, sometimes called "lugs. In an average year, a farmer picked tobacco plants three to five times. Mules hauled the picked leaves on sleds out of the fields and to the curing barns. There, under an attached shelter, others -- usually women -- tied the tobacco onto sticks.

When the men came in from the fields at the end of the day, they placed the prepared sticks of tobacco into the barn and lit the furnace. For seven days, the farmers carefully raised the temperature in the barn and caused the tobacco to yellow and dry out. Once the tobacco had cured, the farmers put out the furnace fire and opened the doors to allow the tobacco to absorb the natural humidity.

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  6. Once the tobacco became pliable again, the farmer placed it in ordering pits to absorb even more moisture before taking the crop to the packhouse. At the packhouse, farmers laid out the tobacco, graded it, and bundled it into "hands. Because the grading and bundling process took considerable time, farmers usually were somewhere in the process as late as November. The other consideration for most tobacco producers was a possible increase in sale prices sometime in October, but not every farmer held their tobacco that late.

    Even though the auction warehouses closed in November, the tobacco farmer still had work to do. From then until December, they kept busy repairing equipment, buying annual supplies, and planning for the next year. One of the most common activities was re-chinking the log tobacco curing barns to make them airtight. It is no wonder that once wood planking and tarpaper became available, farmers used both to cover their curing barns instead of having to use mud and mortar every year.

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