Crops, climate change and succession on 10,000 ha farm in Ukraine

German-born farmer Sigmund Lampka swapped his homeland for Ukraine to gain a foothold in agriculture. In the first of two articles he sets out what prompted the move and how his company Lampka Agro has grown from 500 to 10,000 hectares in less than 15 years

Sigmund Lampka grew up in a German farming family and, from the age of eight, dreamt of owning his own farm. However, despite his family connections Sigmund’s working life started out in an Opel car factory. It wasn’t until he read an article about farming in Ukraine, while he was still working in the car business, that his agricultural dream started to become a reality. Ukraine fascinated Sigmund and he realized it could offer him the opportunity to farm. He quickly began making business contacts and moved to Khmelnytskyi Region in west Ukraine in 2004.

How did the Lampka Agro business develop?

Back in 2004 Sigmund began farming on a 500-hectare farm in Velyki Zozulyntsi, a village in the Krasylivskyi district of Khmelnytskyi Region which lies about 330km west of the capital Kyiv. Since then his farm has undergone dramatic growth and Sigmund’s company, Lampka Agro, now covers more than 10,000 hectares. The main crops grown are winter wheat, winter oilseed rape, corn, soybeans, sugar beet, peas, poppy seeds and oilseed pumpkins. The business also plans to include chickpeas and different types of beans in the list of its crops.

What is Sigmund’s favourite part of the business and which time of year is the most rewarding?

Of the crops, Sigmund admits to preferring winter wheat which he describes as a classic crop for German farmers. He says it’s a very rewarding crop to grow because it is reliable and will produce a good yield in a typically wet Ukrainian year, yet it can still return a decent harvest if the weather is dry.

As for the time of year, he favors drilling and the period soon after, when plants are growing and changes in the fields can be seen day by day. He says that is a special time when it’s possible to analyze “what has been done right, where mistakes have been made and to make forecasts for the future harvest”. In contrast, sugar beet harvesting, during a wet autumn on fields that look like an army training-ground, is a seasonal low.

What crop control chemicals are used on the farm and how does co-operating with ADAMA work?

Currently, ADAMA's products are the basis for soy management and sugar beet - a crop which would be impossible to cultivate on the farm without the herbicide Goltix, Sigmund believes. He has worked alongside ADAMA on a number of projects including one on cultivation programmes for soybean which has just started.

Lampka Agro also works closely with ADAMA on payments for plant protection products. In 2015, Lampka Agro became the first customer to pay for agrochemicals in rapeseed. The following year under ADAMA’s Harvest Programme the farm paid for chemical protection products with wheat and received a bonus in addition to the market price. ADAMA has since developed specific software ‘ADAMA Fin’ which allows Sigmund to monitor crop prices and speculate on crop futures. This allows him to select the best forward price on which to base negotiations with ADAMA before settling on contract terms.

What challenges does the Ukrainian weather present?

Weather is one of the things that growers have never been able to influence in any way, but climate change has made managing a farm even more difficult, according to Sigmund. Modern day farmers always must bear in mind that a drought or hurricane is possible in the current unstable climate, but rents, taxes and employee wages still have to be paid. And he admits while lower yields mean higher prices - which go some way to compensating for the impact of the weather - he is unsure where climate change will end and what the long-term impact will be.

What is the long-term plan for the farm?

Sigmund has two sons who are both studying agriculture in Germany. In the short-term he believes there is enough land for them to farm alongside him. But in the longer-term Sigmund hopes his sons will eventually take on the business and continue the development of the farm he has worked so hard to establish.

 

Lampka Agro became ADAMA's first customer
In 2015, Lampka Agro became ADAMA's first customer to pay for agrochemicals in rapeseed
Main crops grown are winter wheat
Sigmund's MAIN CROPS ARE WINTER WHEAT, WINTER OILSEED RAPE, CORN, SOYBEANS, SUGAR BEET, PEAS, POPPY SEEDS AND OILSEED PUMPKINS
Lampka Agro has grown from 500 to 10,000 hectares
Lampka Agro has grown from 500 to 10,000 hectares in less than 15 years
Winter wheat is reliable
Winter wheat is reliable and will produce a good yield in a typically wet Ukrainian year
Sigmund believes sugar beet would be impossible to cultivate
Sigmund believes sugar beet would be impossible to cultivate on the farm without the herbicide Goltix