Clemson awarded $360,000 by Philip Morris International

Philip Morris International has awarded $360,000 to Clemson University for tobacco research. The money will be used to hire a plant scientist and to build test facilities, enabling research that will help reduce grower costs.

The two-year project will be conducted at the Clemson University Pee Dee Research and Education Center in Florence. Plant pathologist Bruce Fortnum, resident director at the Pee Dee center, will lead the research project.

“American tobacco is the backbone of the cigarettes Philip Morris makes,” said David Conner of Philip Morris, who represented the company at a presentation lunch Wednesday at the Madren Center at Clemson. “The company actively supports programs to advance tobacco production by working with agricultural experts at land-grant universities and independent farmers. The goal is to help growers manage risk and improve quality and production.”

Accepting the grant, Fortnum said the research would cover a number of topics, including variety trials, weed control, new methods to cure tobacco and energy conservation.

“We are grateful for the support and excited about the research opportunities it will help to fund. A primary focus for Philip Morris is finding ways to lower the energy costs for flue-cured tobacco. We will be looking at alternative energy sources — solar and alternative biofuels, such as switchgrass, which we grow experimentally at Pee Dee.”

Tobacco barns still are a common sight in the Pee Dee area where most of the South Carolina tobacco crops are grown. Tobacco is strongly woven into the economic and social fabric of the region. South Carolina tobacco is among the best in the nation due to research-based improvements. No other crop in the state brings so great a per acre profit, according to the S.C. Tobacco Board.

South Carolina ranked fifth in the nation for total tobacco acreage behind North Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee, according to the 2007 Census of Agriculture.


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