To grow a rich harvest, to get a return on each meter of land - standard tasks of any farm. Agricultural producers solve them year after year, and it should be noted that they are doing it quite successfully: yield indicators are steadily increasing.
Alexey Egorov, Head of Plant Protection Products, Agrotrade
Recall that in the late 90s, getting 10 t / ha of potatoes was considered a good result, 15 t / ha - a good result, and 20 t / ha - just an excellent achievement. Now, speaking about a successful high-productivity farm, we mean that here about 50-70 t / ha are harvested. In fact, over the past 10 years, productivity in the industrial sector has grown by 4,5-7 times (depending on the farm).
What is behind these numbers? The multiply increased load on the soil.
Speaking about the load, we mean the increased removal of nutrients from the soil, and the destruction of its structure, and the compaction of the earth, and an increase in the number of pests, weeds, and the deterioration of the phytopathological situation.
At the same time, for various reasons, many potato growers refused to comply with crop rotation rules. Farms, at best, fulfill the conditions of fruit-bearing, when potatoes return to the fields in a year or two, but it is not uncommon for potatoes to be grown on the same field for several years, which negatively affects the quality and productivity.
Against this background, the use of mineral fertilizers and plant protection products for growing potatoes has increased several times. Today, when planting potatoes, the farmer uses at least three, or even five to seven component mixtures of chemical and biological means of protection. Despite the gentle composition and comparative environmental friendliness of modern plant protection agents and mineral fertilizers, the substances used have a noticeable and not the most positive effect on soil biota.
In the natural environment, every pathogen has natural enemies. Using chemical or biological means of protection and mineral fertilizers, we upset the balance, deprive the beneficial microflora of the nutrient medium, slow down the development and reproduction of the necessary microorganisms. As a result, fungal diseases are being replaced by bacterioses, more stable and hardy races of fungi, pests resistant to protective equipment. In contrast to them, we are expanding the list of products introduced into the soil. The circle closes.
Aware of the problem, some farmers are introducing sideral pairs into the technology, which has a positive effect on the balance of soil organic matter, improving the microbiological environment, but this measure alone does not have a significant effect. As is known from textbooks on crop production, potatoes should not return to the field earlier than after four years after the growing season, during this time (subject to alternating stubble predecessors and green manure), the field creates natural quarantine conditions in the soil The number of infections typical of potatoes and specific pests is reduced.
Farmers often ask: which drug most effectively helps get rid of the nematode? The best nematode preparation is crop rotation, which contains green manure and at least two stubble predecessors. In this case, the composition of soil microflora and soil-borne pests changes quite seriously over the course of three years. Biological and chemical products to combat the nematode must be introduced comprehensively, a single use of any drug leads to a decrease in the nematode population, but not to its complete eradication. To cope with this complex pest only if all measures are included at once: these are quarantine measures, crop rotation, and the use of plant protection products in full doses.
But we continue the topic of increasing the use of plant protection products. Obviously, this path implies a significant increase in the costs of agricultural producers. If a decade ago the cost of plant protection products in the cost structure of marketable potatoes ranged from 3 to 10%, now they can reach up to 20%.
Despite this, the percentage of marketable output on farms over the past years has not changed. In the late 90's in advanced farms, marketability was at the level of 75-85%. Today, the figures are about the same. Although in fairness, it can be noted that the concept of "marketability" has changed dramatically over the years: before, any large potato was considered marketable.
But the structure of consumption has changed. Ten years ago, most consumers bought potatoes at the market in bags; today, city dwellers come to the store to choose a small package of quality potatoes for dinner from the existing assortment. The share of catering and fast food also increased. The consequence of all this was an increase in the requirements for the quality of raw materials and increased price competition among agricultural producers.
And everyone feels it. When calculating costs and investments at the end of the season, most potato growers are forced to state that the crop is getting more and more expensive every year.
What can be the way out of this situation?
In my opinion, in the production of potatoes you need to focus on the obvious formula: optimal chemicalization plus crop rotation plus biologization of technology.
Although not everyone will be able to work on it in reality. If large farms will be somewhat easier to review their land use principles, then it will be much more difficult for farmers involved in growing crops on an area of 100200 hectares. A possible way out for such farms may be technological cooperation, building common technological approaches to growing crops.
Think about it: identifying the golden potato nematode in the fields causes the potato grower to double the cost of a plant protection system. But the use of chemicals must be combined with quarantine of infected territories. In such conditions, the idea of cooperation becomes the key to survival for many enterprises.