“I left Odessa Agricultural University’s school of horticulture in 1994, initially working in vineyards and small horticultural farms, before moving onto cereal and row crops and training to become an agronomist.
“Balkany has 11,500 hectares of land in the Odessa region, with another cluster in the Vinnitsa region, where we grow only field crops. In Odessa, winter wheat and barley account for 60% of the rotation, with the remainder oilseed rape and sunflowers along with peas and millet, which are a more recent addition. As well as growing crops for processing and export, we also grow wheat and barley seed, which we process ourselves.
“Yields have increased rapidly over the last few years as we’ve improved the choice of varieties, used soil analysis to enhance our soils and deployed modern machinery and crop protection products. We now trial new hybrids for two to three years and only grow the most successful varieties. Wheat yields have increased from as low as 1.5 tonnes/hectare to as high as 7 tonnes/hectare or higher in less than 20 years.
“We continue to invest in improving the yield and quality of crops and will be opening a leaf analysis laboratory soon. It will allow us to determine which nutrients the plant needs. One issue we suffer from is the hardness of water, which can impact on the crop and affect the smooth operation of machines. We soften the loamy carbonate soil using citric acid.
“Like all farmers, we are dependent on the weather. In our southern part of Odessa, drought is always a threat with just 400mm of rain in the whole season some years. In 2017 we were lucky, getting enough rainfall. I’m also always anxious that we will have a sharp frost in March, damaging the growing crop. Despite that spring is my favourite season as we plant and see the first shoots poking from the ground. Those growing crops will only thrive if we protect them. We have a policy of investing in crop protection products and that includes ones supplied by ADAMA. We have been using its seed treatment Seedoprid™ for a long time, but five years ago we started co-operating more closely. Now Elegant™, Weedblock™ and Orius™ are key products for us and we value Adama’s informative seminars, field days, consultancy and constant support.“A successful farm is not just important for the farmer, but also the local community and the contribution it makes to feeding people in Ukraine and beyond. I’m glad that our Government supports crop rotation control, helps scientists and provides credit. Without such support Ukrainian agriculture couldn’t stay competitive in a global market. The issue of land reform is an important one in the country at the moment. I don’t see anything bad in such reforms as long it allows farmers of all sizes to thrive, supporting local communities.”