Tobacco leaf research
Continuous improvement of the quality and yield of South African tobacco leaf is the main aim of two research institutions contracted by the Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa. The Lowveld Agricultural Research and Support Services (LARSS) in Mpumalanga and the Institute for Industrial Crops of the Agricultural Research Council (ARC-IIC) in the North-West province have presented their work at international conferences and have gained recognition for their work on the African continent. Research priorities include cultivar development, improving fertilization and plant nutrition, the use of rotational crops in nematode control and effective curing to minimise losses in curing barns. Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) and Intergrated Pest Management (IPM) are implemented with the aim of reducing the use of hard chemicals and ensuring sustainable tobacco production.
Good Agriculture Practice (GAP)
Good agricultural practices are encouraged as part of managing a tobacco crop effectively, and the industry has successfully implemented these aspects:
- Production system planning.
- Soil conservation practices.
- Protection of water resources.
- Fertilizer management.
- Development of new tobacco varieties and seed integrity.
- Controlled use of agrochemicals and integrated pest management.
- Control and monitoring of energy consumption and fuel conservation.
Production system planning
Production system planning is based on a 25-point plan that takes into account everything from cultivars to crop rotation, soil preparation and fertigation to pest control, irrigation, reaping and labour. Agronomists discuss these subjects with growers and provide them with a comprehensive Tobacco Guide as reference.
Soil conservation practices
Good soil management involves feasible techniques to provide the best possible conditions for plant growth, while avoiding possible soil loss or deterioration. Agronomists inform growers of the outcome of research into the influence of soil-improving substances such as humic acids, fulvic acids, micro-organisms complexes, organic matter and rotation crops.
Protecting water resources
Stored surface water is monitored for quality and quantity, and Agronomists advise farmers on the usability of water for tobacco irrigation. Correct application of fertilizers is important to prevent contamination of surface water by leaching or run-off of nutrients.
TISA believes the only way to properly manage nutrient application to tobacco fields is to get soil samples tested by an accredited laboratory so appropriate fertilizers can be recommended.
Tobacco varieties and seed integrity
LARSS and the ARC-IIC’s tobacco variety development is based on conventional breeding and no genetic modification takes place. New varieties are subjected to a minimum standards programme throughout all production areas.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
IPM is a systematic way of controlling weeds, pests and disease, which combines chemical, cultural and biological preventative and remedial practices into one programme. This systematic approach allows farmers to use pesticides only when needed. Proper selection of pesticides helps to reduce the risk of crop loss and minimises any harmful effect on the environment.
Energy and fuel consumption
Only coal is used for curing tobacco in South Africa. The average fuel consumption is two kilograms of coal for each kilogram of cured tobacco. Efficient curing management and improved barn structures in South Africa have enabled growers to improve this figure to 1.2kg of coal for each kilogram of cured leaf. A new concept of tobacco curing by means of recycling hot air is being investigated. This has the advantage of being more energy efficient.