Sixty years of tobacco agronomy: evolutions and challenges
Tobacco leaf is a challenging production, labour-intensive, requiring special skills and competences at all steps. In the last century, this prompted tobacco producing countries to establishing institutes or university extension services, to perform applied research and provide assistance to growers. Exchange of information and results between these bodies became a necessity, which played an important stake in the establishment of CORESTA, in 1956. Since this, many evolutions occurred, which may tentatively be resumed as such:
- Firstly, technical innovations dramatically changed the production practices: topping and sucker control, bulk curing barns in flue-cured, float system seedling production, improved irrigation and soil cultivation practices, new cultivars and crop protection agents (CPA), etc.
- Second, the pathogens attacking tobacco evolved, became more widespread, acquired the capacity to bypass cultivar resistances, or became tolerant to new CPAs.
- Thirdly, a diversification of tobacco / nicotine delivery products occurred: not only cigars and cigarettes, but also shisha, snus, roll your own, etc… each of them require specific type(s) of tobacco leaf, therefore specific cultivars and production techniques.
Each of these changes added their own complexity / constraint layer to the other, thus increasing the global complexity of the leaf production activity, therefore the training and education need for growers.
While CORESTA played an important role in coordinating key collaborative efforts to addressing these issues, the tobacco industry also has changed. Applied tobacco research and extension bodies supporting leaf production tended to be reduced, or even disappeared in some countries. There is now a challenge faced by the leaf sector worldwide, with a dramatically increased need of training and information.