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Leaf research

Finding better ways to grow

We continue to explore ways to improve the quality of tobacco plants while minimising the environmental effects of conventional production in the field.

British American Tobacco’s Leaf Research and Technology team was formed in Rio de Janeiro in 1974 and is now part of our global agronomy centre. The team works with our plant breeding facility, which was set up to develop commercial hybrid seeds. These units provide farmers who supply us with leaf with guidance on agronomy practices, alternative fuels, irrigation and mechanisation, agrochemical use, integrated pest management and curing methods.

The work of the Leaf Research and Technology team includes studies on the sustainability of tobacco agronomy and the development of leaf varieties that deliver greater yields, quality and disease resistance.

Examples of some key research projects include:

  • Solar-assisted curing: where using solar heat collectors on curing barns has been shown to achieve a 15% reduction in wood-fuel requirements.
  • Drip irrigation: this uses around 30% less water and has other benefits such as reduced soil erosion and salination, lower energy consumption and increased yields.
  • Ferti-irrigation: the efficient application of fertiliser through irrigation water, which reduces manual labour.

Genetically modified (GM) leaf

Our Plant Biotechnology division, based in Cambridge in the UK, investigates ways that biotechnology can be used to improve tobacco quality and looks at modifications that may help our efforts to make products that are potentially less harmful.

We respect consumer concerns that have been expressed about genetic modification of crops. Our current policy is that we do not use genetically modified (GM) tobacco in any of our products and we take all reasonable precautions to avoid the purchase of any.

In the future, we believe that benefits may arise from genetic modification of tobacco leaf in terms of better quality and consistency and the reduced use of agrochemicals. We continue to carefully evaluate the potential benefits balanced against the possible consequences of GM crops on the environment.

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