We believe that good agricultural practices need to be put in place to reduce negative environmental impact and to ensure the long-term sustainability of natural resources and environmental conditions.
Our biggest supplier of tobacco leaf in South Africa is AFGRI Tobacco, a tobacco growing, processing and marketing company. It is firmly committed to a social responsibility program in all areas in which it operates in compliance with the road maps designed in partnership with British American Tobacco South Africa. AFGRI Tobacco is owned by AFGRI Operations Limited, and AFGRI Tobacco annually produces about nine million kilogram (kg) of flue-cured tobacco, 95 per cent of which is sold to British American Tobacco South Africa.
Research for South African Tobacco Growers has, since 2002, focused on soil improvement, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and responsible farming practices. AFGRI Tobacco and the industry as a whole have contracted Lowveld Agricultural Research Services (LARS) to conduct research into the use of registered chemicals in farming practice, crop rotation and diagnostic facilities to ensure effective environmental and occupational health and safety programs throughout all tobacco growing operations.
Good agricultural practices are encouraged as part of managing a tobacco crop effectively, and LARS 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. LARS discusses each of these subjects with growers and provides them with a comprehensive manual.
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. LARS informs 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 LARS advises 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.
LARS believes that 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. All tobacco farmers affiliated to AFGRI, as well as their fertilizer suppliers, make use of soil sampling.
Tobacco varieties and seed integrity
LARS 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. LARS reports that proper selection of pesticides helps to reduce the risk of crop loss and minimises any harmful effect on the environment.
Energy and fuel consumption
Coal is largely 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. A limited amount of sun cured tobacco is also being grown around the country, specifically in the North West and Mpumalanga Provinces as well as the Western Cape.