Ready to teach
Universal Leaf Tabacos opens its state-of-the-art Tobacco Training Center/Research and Development Station in Brazil.
Universal Leaf Tabacos (ULT) will officially open its Tobacco Training Center/Research and Development Station in Brazil on Feb. 23. The center was built to educate ULT’s contract farmers, personnel and customers about Brazilian tobacco production. After hosting 24 participants last year, some of the center’s programs have proved to be successful, and ULT is optimistic about its newest venture.
The research and development station was originally established in October 2003, as a seed production center for ULT’s contracted farmers in Brazil. The center also conducts research on how to enhance the quality of Brazilian leaf. After one year of operation, ULT decided to expand the seed production center with a training facility for its technicians.
“We decided to integrate training for our field and processing personnel,” says Horst Deeke, one of the center’s managers. “We made arrangements to have local staff be trained in our tobacco cultural practices, curing and grading. We also extended the training to our leaf buying, grading and processing personnel.” Encouraged by the success of its training programs, ULT recently decided to also offer them to its affiliates and customers.
“The benefits of the activities at our experimental station are enormous,” says Deeke. “ULT will have better-trained personnel with enhanced knowledge about the complete operation of the company. And having foreign trainees with us will project ULT’s name and advertise the good reputation of Brazilian to-bacco.”
The Training Center/Research and Development Center offers three programs: a breeding program, a seed production program, and a training program. Each program comprises three weeks of intensive training.
The breeding program covers the production of tobacco varieties adapted to Brazilian conditions. Participants use the facility’s laboratories to improve tobacco quality and yield, and study ways to enhance disease resistance.
“The program has already released more than 26 new flue-cured and burley tobacco cultivators,” says Deeke. “[Eliminating] tobacco mosaic virus, potato virus Y, nematodes and bacterial wilt have been some of the main objectives of the breeding program. Also, we are proud to have been successful with new bacterial wilt-resistant burley hybrids.”
Deeke says that new projects are under way to help ULT’s wrapper tobacco operation and other ULT affiliates with breeding programs.
In ULT’s seed production program, participants learn about the development of seeds and agronomic research within the Brazilian tobacco industry. Deeke says that participants learn about the seeds and cultural practices that produce the 250,000 tons of tobacco that ULT processes in Brazil. Participants learn how to employ modern equipment and accurate techniques to foster seed production.
“To meet the tobacco industry’s expectations for lower TSNA levels, ULT screens all of the produced varieties to remove nor-nicotine converter plants from the seed production program,” says Deeke.
For the 2004 crop, Deeke says, the station produced 1,390 kg of seed, 575 kg of which were hand-pollinated hybrids. For the current season, ULT estimates it will produce close to 1,000 kg of commercial seed.
The training program introduces par-ticipants to Brazilian tobacco-growing guidelines and develops their agronomic and operations skills. ULT says the program is like “on-the-job training.” Participants take part in lectures and discussions about tobacco growing and get hands-on experience by visiting different tobacco-growing regions in southern Brazil.
INVESTING IN THE FUTURE
ULT’s Training Center/Research and Development Center is situated on 85 acres of land in Rio Pardo County, which is located 16 kilometers south of Santa Cruz do Sul. ULT says it invested heavily in the buildings and state-of-the-art equipment.
Deeke supervises the entire operation and dedicates most of his time to the seed production and breeding programs. Sergio Willani, who is operational research manager, runs the training program and supports the tobacco production team.
Aside from Deeke and Willani, the center employs 25 full-time workers and up to 250 seasonal workers.
ULT is confident about the center’s future. “We believe that we can successfully train people from all over the world. Brazil is becoming an international model of good tobacco production, where advanced techniques are applied that improve upon the good agricultural practices we have in place,” says Willani.