Tobacco Orobanche

Tobacco Orobanche- Flowering parasite

  • Orobanche is popularly known as broomrape in English speaking countries, ‘Tokra’ in north India, ‘vakumba’ in Gujarat, ‘bambaku’ in Maharashtra, ‘pokayilaikalan’ in Tamil Nadu, ‘bodu’ or ‘malle’ in Andhra Pradesh.
  • It is a flowering parasite on tobacco roots and occurs in all the tobacco tracts in India. It is a holoparasite and draws its nourishment from tobacco by means of haustoria attached to the roots of tobacco.
  • The loss in the yield and quality of leaf is very much variable from 30-70% in Tamil Nadu and 10-50% in other states.
  • Symptoms In the early stages of infection, symptoms of wilting, drooping and ribbing of leaves are observed in the early hours.
  • These symptoms are the first indication of underground infection of tobacco roots by the parasite.
  • Five to six weeks after planting, young orobanche sprouts emerge from the soil at the base of tobacco plants. The presence of numerous orobanche shoots around the plants in the field is the most important visible symptom.
  • Plants attacked early in the season are generally stunted showing typical wilting of leaves. Plants attacked late in the season do not show visible symptoms of infection but the yield and quality of leaves are reduced.
  • Orobanche emerges in clusters, they are 15-45 cm tall, pale brown or purple in colour. Often 10-15 shoots are found attached to the roots of a single host plant.
  • Of the two species reported in India, viz. Orobanche cernua and O.indica, the former is more a serious parasite on tobacco and it is restricted to solanaceous plants. some more hosts in other families, e.g. Cannabinaceae, Compositae, Euphorbiaccae and Tiliaceae. Further he noticed that Capsicum annum (chillies) and Tridax procumbens stimulated germination of orobanche seed without getting parasitised.
  • The seed is reported to be viable for 2 years though and remained dormant in the soil for at least 13 years.
  • The causal organism Orobanche cernua Loefl. Var. desertorum Beck. is an annual, fleshy flowering plant, erect, 15-45 cm high.
  • Stem more or less round, pale-brown, solitary (or in bunches) thickened at the base, covered with scaly leaves ending in spike, clayx with 2 narrow lobes.
  • Corolla a white tube with bluish or violet lobes stamens 4 epipetalous with lobed anthers; ovary superior, one-celled with numerous ovules; stigma rather big and 4-lobed, fruit is 2-valved, a capsule containing numerous seeds.
  • Seeds are very minute 369×206, very light, approximately 1,90,000 weigh 1 Gram, avoid and reticulate in black soil under normal growing conditions Orobanche completes its life cycle in 12-14 weeks.
  • Orobanche seed germinates during the second week after planting tobacco and infects the root during the third week.
  • Till the end of the fifth week, underground infection of Orobanche develops into various sizes. On the sixth week, Orobanche shoots emerge above ground.
  • Flowering is completed by the seventh week, seed formation by eighth week and capsule drying by ninth week end.
  • Drying off commences by the tenth week, withering of stem and dehiscence of capsules by eleventh and twelfth weeks. Studies on the germination of Orobanche seed all around the year indicated that November to February was favourable for maximum germination when the minimum soil temperature varied from 190 to 22 oC.
  • Germination was minimum during April to June when the soil temperature was 25o  to 31.5 oC. O.cernua is a holoparasite and the seeds germinate in presence of roots of tobacco and other host plants to the extent of 0 to 4.6%.
  • Host root exudates stimulate germination 21 days at 21oC in the presence of vitamin PP (nicotinamide) and vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine hydrochloride) to the extent of 45.5% and 90% respectively.
  • Orobanche seeds being very minute in size are produced in enormous numbers in each capsule. When the capsule is dry, it splits open at the top and the small dust-like seeds are easily scattered by wind.
  • They mix up with the soil and remain viable for long periods. Irrigation and drainage water carry the seeds from one field to another. It is also spread through the animals, man or cultivation equipment.
  • Seeds present in the soil germinate in presence of susceptible hosts like tobacco, tomato, brinjal and safflower.
  • Prevention of formation of the inoculum potential form the basis of orobanche control. Regular weekly hand pulling of tender orobanche shoots before they set seed has reduced the original stand by 85% after 2 years and by 96% after 4 years.
  • Periodical hand pulling carried out meticulously by every grower in a large block for at least 4 years will give adequate control of this menace.
  • An alternative and equally effective method is spray drenching the emerged Orobanche shoot at tender stage (7-10 cm height) with Allyl alcohol at 0.1% spray which scorches the Orobanche shoots and they wilt and die within 48 to 72 hours after application, whereas the host plants remain unaffected.
  • However, for orobanche shoots in an advanced stage or those that appear at a later stage, the concentration of Allyl alcohol has to be increased up to 0.2% beyond which in becomes phytotoxic to the host.
  • Direct application of kerosine oil 3-4 drops per shoot has given better knock down effect. Since kerosene oil is highly toxic to host, attempts are being made to develop a safe, easy and economic device for the application.
  • The combination of both the methods, viz. removal by manual labour up to first priming of leaves followed by chemical spray is suggested.
  • This would be more economical depending upon the intensity of infection. soil application of Ethylene dibromide (EDB) @ 2-5 ml/m and DBCP @ 2 g/m in heavy clay or light medium soil significantly reduced broomrape infestation.
  • The incidence of orobanche was much reduced in tobacco following jowar or gingelly in kharif but chillies though reported to be a trap crop failed to give the same effect that Sinapisalba as a spring gap crop preceding tobacco considerably reduced orobanche emergence.
  • Working on the effect of dates of planting on the incidence of orobanche, that late planting reduced the incidence of orobanche but the crop growth is also affected mainly due to soil moisture stress.


  • TamilNadu Agritech Portal
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