August 2020 – The evolution of conservation practices in tobacco farming, at each new crop year, attests to the concern of the supply chain about soil conservation. Survey conducted by the Interstate Tobacco Industry Union (SindiTabaco) shows that 76% of the tobacco farmers use systems like direct planting and minimum tillage. In 2010, it was the case of 34% of the farmers.
CULTIVATION SYSTEMS (%)
Conventional Cultivation Minimum Tillage / Direct Planting
Farmers adopting minimum tillage disturb the soil as minimal as possible, partially protecting its surface with residues from the previous crop or with biomass resulting from cover crops, with the aim to reduce erosion risks.
On the other hand, mulch-based cropping is the most efficient cultivation system in terms of soil protection. It consists in minimizing soil disturbance, preserving the mulch from the cover crop on the surface.
Viewed as a fundamental sustainability pillar by the tobacco industry, the use of conservation practices has been rising year after year, as a result of the efforts by field staffs of the tobacco companies associated with the SindiTabaco. “Technical guidance has had an invaluable importance in the spread of these new technologies and a permanent ally in making these statistical figures soar. The expectation is for more farmers to adopt these good agricultural practices, not only beneficial to soil and the environment, but to the farmers themselves, as labor needs equally drop”, SindiTabaco president Iro Schünke comments.
According to the entity’s technical advisor, agronomic engineer Darci José da Silva, over the past years, conventional soil preparation and management have gradually been left aside. These conventional practices include plowing, disking, excessive cultivations and hoeing. He explains that one of the factors that explain the significant strides made by conservation practices has been the evolution of cover crops, that derive from the bigger diversification of the species utilized.
“Currently, the most utilized species, besides oats, common vetch and mucuna, include millet, brachiaria, crotalaria and forage turnip. These crops, characterized by the production of abundant biomass, also possess a robust root system, and they have a direct influence on the restructuring process of the soil profile and upon the creation of a more favorable environment toward the proliferation of micro-organisms that are necessary for the benefic action of their weathering process. From that time on, sustainable cultivation systems like direct planting in the mulch or minimum tillage have been becoming more popular among farm extension workers and farmers, who have started spreading them”, Silva explains.
Reasons for adhering to conservation practices
OTHER PRACTICES – Some farmers who still use conventional soil preparation systems adopt other conservation practices like terracing, cover crops, wide and high ridges and contour farming, which function as protection mechanisms with regard to rainwater run off, reducing its speed and erosive potential. Another manner of protecting soil is through streamside forests, located in the surroundings of water sources along the margins of brooks. Furthermore, as tobacco is a seasonal crop, making it possible for succession crops, companies encourage the farmers to cultivate other crops, like corn and bean after tobacco harvest. This practice curbs the proliferation of pests and diseases, while residual fertilizers benefit the growth of succeeding crops, thus turning into a complementary source of food and income derived from the farms.
Cibele Gandolpho – email@example.com – (11) 3169-9331 / (11) 96477-2701
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