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DIVAS — Result In Brief

Project ID: 232250
Funded under: FP7-SME

Evaluating Stevia as a supplementary crop to tobacco

Recent reforms in the tobacco industry have reduced profit margins for European tobacco growers. New research has looked at an alternative crop, Stevia rebaudiana, to supplement tobacco farmers' incomes.
Evaluating Stevia as a supplementary crop to tobacco
S. rebaudiana and other Stevia species have been used as a sweetening agent for hundreds of years. It is also a powerful antioxidant and is today used extensively as a sugar replacement in Japan.

The EU-funded 'Diversification for tobacco growing farms by the alternative crop Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni' (DIVAS) project tested the feasibility of using Stevia as a supplementary crop for tobacco farmers. This involved researching both economic and scientific aspects of S. rebaudiana cultivation as well as conducting market research.

DIVAS scientists first grew various strains in field trials. They found that S. rebaudiana required little in the way of water or soil amendments, making it a hardy and low-maintenance crop. A thorough chemical analysis also helped researchers choose a strain that had good sweetness and antioxidant content.

Extensive market research was then undertaken to evaluate the different S. rebaudiana varieties in terms of taste and usefulness to companies. Widely considered to have an agreeable taste, some strains show liquorice, menthol or bitter notes. Food companies for the most part responded that they would consider using S. rebaudiana powder as a sugar replacement.

DIVAS is currently investigating legal and regulatory restrictions to the introduction of S. rebaudiana as a food additive. It is expected that the project outcomes will offer tobacco farmers a good alternative to supplement their income.

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