This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
Tobacco is one of our most useful insecticides. The poisonous principle in tobacco is an alkaloid nicotine, which in the pure state is a colorless fluid; slightly heavier than water, of little smell when cold and with an exceedingly acrid burning taste even when largely diluted. It is soluble in water and entirely volatile. It is one of the most virulent poisons known; a single drop is sufficient to kill a dog. Commercial tobacco preparations have been on the market for many years. The most important of these are black leaf, "black leaf 40," and nicofume.
Black leaf was formerly the most widely used tobacco extract. It contains only 2.7 per cent nicotine and has now been replaced by the more concentrated extracts. It is used for plant-lice at the rate of one gallon to sixty-five gallons of water.
"Black leaf 40" is a concentrated tobacco extract containing 40 per cent nicotine sulfate. Its specific gravity is about 1.25. In this preparation the nicotine is in a non-volatile form, it having been treated with sulfuric acid to form the sulfate. "Black leaf 40" is used at strengths varying from one part in 800 parts of water to one part in 1,600 parts. It can be satisfactorily combined with other sprays, as for example, lime-sulfur solution, arsenate of lead, and the various soap solutions. When used with water, about four pounds of soap should be added to make the mixture spread and stick better.
Nicofume is a tobacco extract containing 40 per cent of nicotine in the volatile form. It is intended primarily for use in greenhouses. Strips of paper soaked in this preparation are smudged in greenhouses to destroy aphids.
Tobacco is also used in the form of dust for the same purpose. It is especially valuable against root-lice on asters and other plants. Tobacco extracts can be made at home by steeping tobacco stems in water, but as they vary greatly in nicotine content and are sometimes likely to injure tender foliage, it is better to buy the standardized extracts.