Company provides student scholarships, educational facility for tobacco growers and county agents
MURRAY, Ky. — U.S. Smokeless Tobacco, an Altria company, is a generous supporter of Murray State University’s Hutson School of Agriculture, providing scholarships and funding for a number of initiatives.
Recently, Altria/U.S. Smokeless Tobacco resumed a robust scholarship program for agriculture students at Murray State from a brief hiatus. At the same time, the company also provided funds to support dark tobacco research on MSU’s West Farm.
A U.S. Smokeless Tobacco $10,000 donation funded seven student scholarships for the 2014-15 academic year. This support was increased to $20,000 for the 2015-16 academic year. The Hutson School of Agriculture also received $15,000 from the company for the construction of a tobacco float bed greenhouse to support the Murray State dark tobacco research site and educational efforts for Purchase Area tobacco growers and county extension agents.
Kentucky leads the nation in production of dark fire-cured tobacco, with approximately 9,000 acres of it grown annually in the state at a value of nearly $80 million. Nearly half of that production occurs in the Purchase area, primarily in Calloway and Graves counties.
Methods for producing the starter plants for tobacco fields continue to evolve. Growers in the area have switched from the traditional canvas-covered plant bed to greenhouse float beds. Transplant production in greenhouse float beds is quite different, which calls for an entirely new learning experience for growers and county agents, who get numerous tobacco production questions daily from area tobacco producers during the season.
The newly-built educational greenhouse provides a laboratory where agents and growers can learn more about general cultural practices for transplant production, as well as disease identification, disease prevention and control, clipping, transplant fertility, greenhouse maintenance and sanitation, and more. The greenhouse was erected on MSU’s West Farm to serve as the transplant production site for field research in cooperation with the University of Kentucky, and the educational center for county agents and tobacco growers in the Purchase area.
“These recent donations by Altria/U.S. Smokeless Tobacco continue our longstanding partnership to support their stakeholders — the dark tobacco adult producers —with scholarships for their family members. Additionally, given a need for an up-to-date on-farm dark tobacco greenhouse to support the research project, U.S. Smokeless stepped up and helped us meet that need with a financial contribution. We appreciate their willingness to support our students and our initiatives,” said Dr. Tony Brannon, dean of the Hutson School of Agriculture.