Ukraine ramps up grain production


THE LOOMING threat of advancing Black Sea agricultural output has been a constant theme in Australian ag circles for the best part of two decades.

The bad news is that the production boost is already happening, but the good news is that much of it will occur in commodities other than Australian staples such as wheat and canola.

A team of Western Australian growers, back from a recent visit of farmland and infrastructure in Ukraine, have seen first-hand the immense potential in the region, where fertile soils can support wheat crops of up to eight tonnes a hectare.

However, in heartening news for Australian farmers, at present the most popular Ukrainian crops will not go head to head with Australia’s key grain exports.

David Fulwood is an experienced visitor to Ukraine, having visited seven times since his trip as part of a Nuffield Scholarship in 2005, and he led the recent tour group of growers to the eastern European nation.

He said the current trend in Ukraine was to grow sunflowers, soybeans and corn as the major cash generators of the rotation.

“They can certainly grow wheat, but at present it is more of a rotational tool, allowing them to get their three crops every two years, rather than the major cash crop in its own right,” Mr Fulwood said.

In the time since his first visit Mr Fulwood, who farms with his family in Cunderdin, has seen a massive rise in the hectares cultivated under modern farming practices.

He said the nation was starting to make the most of its substantial natural assets, including the possession of 25 per cent of the world’s chernozem soil and ample rainfall through its natural grass plains, the steppes.

Chernozem, Russian for black earth, is characterised by high organic matter percentages, with humus levels of up to 15 per cent.

This compares to Australian soils often lucky to have 1pc organic matter.

Mr Fulwood said under traditional farming practices wheat yields generally sat at around three tonnes a hectare, with a national average of 4t/ha.


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