Growing cereals and fruit with Ukraine’s challenging conditions

Arable and horticulture company Obriy Ltd was established in 2003 by a group of nine founding members near the village of Strointsi in the Vinnytsia region of the Ukraine. One of the founders, and now general director Andriy Bahriy, explains what it is like to produce cereal and fruit under the country’s challenging conditions

How big is the farm and what do you grow?

The total farm size is  595 hectares which is made up of 475ha of wheat, barley, soy, sunflower and corn along with 120ha of fruit. Apple production accounts for 100ha of the fruit area and the remaining 20ha produces plums, blueberries and raspberries.

What is the horticulture market like in the Ukraine?

Production of agricultural crops, especially cereals, is mainly orientated towards the export market which has a more stable price and gives the producer a rough idea of ​​future profit.

When it comes to apples, the fluctuating market is more difficult to predict. Although we have exported apples to Indonesia in the past it was a complicated operation over the long distance. For now, we are concentrating on the home market instead, but this is not without its difficulties. Ukrainians traditionally buy fewer apples than the norm and demand has been further depressed by the ongoing economic crisis. This year, however, it was quite easy to sell products because Poland – a key competitor -  had a bad yield due to the freezing weather.

Which apple cultivar is the most popular?

Rennet Semerenko has been the most  cost-effective.  This is a classic green  elite  apple of Ukrainian origin and it is highly profitable.  However, for the past two years prices have dropped which could be due to a change in consumer preferences.

What other apples are popular with Ukraine’s growers?

Golden Delicious is the second most popular because of its quality and productivity. This is a benchmark for sweet apples with strong demand particularly in Germany where 60% of consumers  choose it.  Golden Delicious is also a base for breeding many other types of apples, including some sweet red cultivars.  Recently, there was a craze on Fuji and pure red apples have become trendy now particularly in Indonesia.

What  is the  average apple crop yield on the  farm?
 
On average, we achieve about 40 t/ha. Yield varies from 20 to 80 t/ha according to which part of the farm they come from. About 100 hectares of the farm is down to apple orchards but half of this area is the former “kolhoz” – the Soviet type of farm. The land is rented and old and even though we use modern technology yields are low.

How do farms in the Ukraine protect crops from spring frost?

There are a few technological measures used depending on how hard the frost is. For temperatures of -5°C or less, a powerful sprinkler system, fed by mains water pipes and double irrigation systems, is employed. Irrigation is then carried out during the night. When lighter frosts of -2 to -3°C occur during the flowering period, wet straw is laid in the orchard. This produces a misting at night which prevents frost from setting in. An additional protection is to use fertilizers that include a growth promoter that stimulates the plant metabolism. Even if the flower is damaged, it’s possible to produce some seedless apples. Although these apples do not store well it means that at least there is some yield.

How many  pesticide  treatments  do you apply to the apple orchards each season?

A total of 20 treatments, mostly during May - June. These are often tank mixes of insecticides. The season begins in mid-April and lasts until the end of July (last treatment).

What are the most common pests and diseases on the farm?

The cultivar Rennet Semerenko is susceptible to scab so that is our most common disease. As for pests, we are having problems with spider mites. This is because a very intensive usage of different insecticides for other pests reduced the numbers of predatory mites - the natural enemy of the spider mite. Since there is no systemic acaricide it is not possible to destroy all the spider mites using chemical controls alone. There is a maximum biological efficiency of only 85%, and two surviving mites multiply into 40 after 10 days. To tackle the problem, we have decided to change our approach and the protection campaign will make spider mites our priority target. Our product choice will change to ensure the predatory mites survive.

Tell us about the  partnership with  ADAMA.
The key products for us are Merpan ™, Apollo ® SC and others. Last year, 95% of our crop protection products were ADAMA’s. We tried many of these pesticides for the first time – and they worked perfectly. The company is very committed to its clients and the regional managers and consultants helped us throughout the season and analyzing our results.

Apple production accounts for 100ha of the fruit area
Apple production accounts for 100ha of the fruit area
Production of agricultural crops, especially cereals, is mainly orientated towards the export market
Production of agricultural crops, especially cereals, is mainly orientated towards the export market
Scab is the farm's most common disease
Scab is the farm's most common disease
The total farm size is 595 hectares which is made up of 475ha of wheat, barley, soy, sunflower and corn
The total farm size is 595 hectares which is made up of 475ha of wheat, barley, soy, sunflower and corn