Effective soil management involves applying a variety of techniques
Our approach to soil conservation and improvement is not based on a standard solution. We believe in testing and adapting available technology for each area to help reach the best solutions, depending on local soil conditions, climate and topography.
Effective soil management involves applying varied techniques to improve soil fertility and create the best growing conditions, while avoiding soil loss or deterioration.
The techniques our companies promote include ‘no tillage’ or ‘minimum tillage’, using plant-based 'green manure’ and planned crop rotation, to minimise problems such as soil erosion or depletion of soil nutrients.
Sloping Agricultural Land Technology
Our subsidiary in Sri Lanka, Ceylon Tobacco Company, introduced a major soil protection and improvement programme, now adopted as part of the country’s farming system.
Sloping Agricultural Land Technology, or SALT, prevents soil erosion across hilly terrain while rejuvenating the soil. It involves planting fast-growing, nitrogen-fixing leguminous sticks on the contours of hills, which grow to form double hedgerows five metres apart. Between these, the branches are regularly lopped, spread, and allowed to turn into mulch. The mulch enriches the soil with nitrogen, and the hedgerow roots prevent the fertile topsoil from being washed away.
Permanent crops such as coffee or pepper are planted between the hedgerows in the newly enriched soil, and livestock are introduced to the land.
Ceylon Tobacco introduced farmers to SALT in 1989 at the Government's request, helping to return an impoverished farming community to prosperity by transforming an area left barren by years of slash and burn farming. It has been adopted more widely in Sri Lanka and, although it was not introduced to generate tobacco growing, many of the tobacco farmers who grow on sloping land have also adopted it.
Bangladesh: replenishing soil fertility
Our company in Bangladesh has also developed and promoted new sustainable agricultural practices, working with the British American Tobacco Biodiversity Partnership and the Bangladesh Agricultural University.
One activity was a research project to replenish soil by using organic matter. They set out to improve the structure and fertility of the soil where tobacco is grown by using organic composts made from natural waste materials, such as manure and crop residues.
The natural compost brought significant benefits, such as improved soil structure with increased levels of nutrients. The soil is more productive for longer and also needs less application of artificial fertilisers. As well as the environmental benefit, this means lower costs for the farmer.
The soil fertility and structure has also been helped by introduction of a ‘green manure’ made from a plant called mimosa invisa. This is a shrubby spreading perennial plant that forms dense thickets and can be grown as a crop. When the crop matures, it is incorporated into the soil.
The project has provided significant learning opportunities for farmers, enabling British American Tobacco Bangladesh to enhance the training and technical advice that it provides to farmers.