Spring is the time to make estimations of the condition of winter grain crops and forecasts of the future harvest. Taking into account the fact that winter wheat form more than 95% of the general wheat harvest in Ukraine, estimations of the crops condition are more than relevant, especially in terms of the current agro-climatic conditions that developed during the autumn planting campaign, the abnormally warm winter and the fairly early and dry spring.
APK-Inform Agency received firsthand information about the condition of winter wheat areas in Dnipropetrovsk oblast and spoke with the Head of the laboratory of agrobiological resources of winter grains of the Synelnykove Selection and Research Station of the Institute of grain crops under the National Academy of Agrarian Sciences (NAAS) of Ukraine, Mykola Solodushko, while visiting the fields where the scientists provided the researches with various winter grains, and in the current year — withwheat and barley.
The Synelnykove Selection and Research Station is one of the oldest scientific institutions in the NAAS system, and has almost 110 years of experience.
It is the major industrial producer and supplier of primary and elite seeds of all agricultural crops, grown in the steppe zone of Ukraine. It is located in Dnipropetrovsk oblast, 45 km away from the oblast center.
— Mykola Mykolaevich, would You tell us what kind of experiments are currently realized in the fields of the station? What results can You make a boast of?
We provide the research in various directions, including the study of reaction of different varieties of winter wheat to different forecrops, different periods of the planting works, the study of the effect of mineral fertilizers in terms of winter wheat growing after various forecrops, the study of different varieties of winter wheat in various selection centers of both our country and abroad. At the same time, we are studying various growth stimulants, micro-fertilizers, and various substances that can increase the yield of winter wheat.
In the current year, the winter crops areas overwintered very well, and the vegetation processes resumed in early March 2020. Actually, it is not news for us, because for 5 recent years winter crops usually start vegetating in 2-3 weeks earlier than the average long-term period, except for the year of 2018.
During the winter period, winter crops had all conditions for keeping of its vital processes, since the temperature indicators and the level of soil moisture content allowed forming such processes. I would like to note that winter crops of late planting terms, and first of all, the crops of the first planting terms passed rather insignificant, but corresponding stage in their development. And if at the end of the autumn period of vegetation, for example, the plants, which agrarians planted after October 15, demonstrated 2-3 leaves only, then already after recovery of the vegetation processes such plants were already in the beginning of the tillering stage or formed 2 sprouts.
— So, in Your opinion, are there any reasons for winter crops to form a good harvest in the country to date?
Absolutely! Early beginning of the vegetation is the best evidence of the situation, as well as the favourable winter period, which lowered the level of lost plants in our station to nearly 2-4%. And it is almost the natural sparseness of crops after the winter period in terms of normal, hydrothermal conditions. In addition, I should stress the reserves of productive moisture in the soil. In the period of restoration of the vegetation processes, they were characterized as quite good and optimum. In particular, in the meter-soil layer the depth of agronomic valuable moisture content varied within 180-190 mm. Of course, it happened even after the best forecrops. After non-fallow forecrops, the figures usually varied within 150-170 mm. So, such moisture reserves are able to provide plants with the appropriate level of moisture content, in order to form the significant harvest volumes.
— What can You say about the protection of plants and additional fertilizing?
Of course, in order to get a good harvest, you need to create all required conditions for plants. First of all, it is additional fertilizing and protecting of crops. The first stage of additional fertilizing in farms almost passed, in the current year it is the second half of February and the beginning of March 2020. At the same time, farms are preparing for the second stage of fertilizing, which takes place at the end of the tillering stage, and in the beginning of stem elongation. I consider that the volumes of fertilizers should total at the level of the second fertilizing, or nearly 45-60 kg per ha of active ingredient. It should be kept in mind that in order to produce a good harvest, the general volume of nitrogen applied in the spring and summer period should vary at the level of 90-120 kg/ha of active ingredient. It will ensure forming of the significant harvest and high-quality indicators of grains.
Again I should mention about crop protection. In the current year, we observed a lot of wintering weeds, especially in the areas under wheat of late planting terms. There were all favourable conditions for their development in the continued autumn period, as well as the warm winter, and early restoration of the vegetation processes. Therefore, it will be necessary to fight them with herbicides.
As for diseases, I consider that to date there is no such urgent need to fight diseases, even from the economic point of view, even taking into account the temperature regime. As of today, in the morning we also observed some minor frosts, and the low air temperature in the daytime, and therefore, if necessary, we will have to fight diseases at slightly later time.
As for our region, Septoria blight and powdery mildew are the most common diseases. Therefore, one should especially keep control of thick planted areas, crops of early planting terms, which already formed the fairly significant top-soil mass. It is precisely these areas that need to be controlled, and, if necessary, treated with fungicides.
And I will say a few words about pests. When the air temperature increases to +12…14°C, again there will be observed the mass coming of adult corn bug and many other pests from their winter quarters. It will be necessary to treat them at least by processing the edges of fields at the depth of nearly 50-100 m.
I will not say what insecticides, fungicides, or herbicides we need to apply. All specialists know the products very well, and everyone knows their effectiveness, and therefore they will need to use the products if necessary.
— Would You tell us what crops are still in the best condition, and after what forecrops?
Our laboratory studies three types of forecrops: autumn fallow lands, peas and sunflower seed. On visual inspection, the crops planted after peas, and even after sunflower seed, have diametric differences to each other, in terms of development of the top-soil mass and the root system, and even the colour of leaf blades. Therefore, in the current year, as of today, the crops after peas are in the perfect condition. As for the crops after sunflower seed, and even after the first additional fertilizing, it is still clear that they need the second fertilizing. And even the higher doses of fertilizing. Unfortunately, the reporting forecrop is not quite favourable for winter crops. Therefore, it is still necessary to estimate the advantages of every specific forecrop, in terms of planning to plant winter grains. As for the yield of winter wheat, I consider that after the best forecrops, the yield of winter wheat, which was planted in the best, optimum terms, can still vary at the level of 7-7.5 t/ha. After the worst forecrops, in particular after sunflower seed, and it is one of the most common forecrops in our region, the maximum yield can vary at the level of 4-4.5, or the maximum level of 5 t/ha. But everything will depend on the weather conditions in the future.
— To date, the issue of sufficient soil moisture content is also very relevant. What can You tell about the situation in Your region?
As for the whole territory of our country, the indicators of productive moisture content are quite controversial. For example, in the central region the soil moisture content is more or less good, while in southern oblasts, in particular in certain raions of Kherson oblast, the situation is not very good. There in the second layer of soil, even after the best forecrops, the reserves of productive moisture content were at the level of 70-85 mm, which was very low to form any good harvest. Also, there are some complaints about the moisture reserves in western and northern oblasts — Cherkasy and Kyiv oblasts.
I especially note that in the current year, April will become the most critical month for winter grains. If there is sufficient precipitation in April, at least at the level of the average long-term indicators, we will get quite significant yield indicators. If the depth of precipitation is insufficient in April, unfortunately, we will get the yield, which will be lower by nearly 10-15% or even 20% compared with last year. There were my forecasts.
— What do You think about expectations of scientists and experts on the possibility of getting two harvests in Ukraine in the near future?
Two harvests? I believe that taking into account the main group of agricultural crops that determine the food security of our country, it is too early to talk about such possibility. But in some regions of Ukraine, agrarians already started applying such cultivation methods. They usually use winter barley, sunflower seed, and possibly other crops. In my opinion, first one needs to learn how to receive the maximum yield figures from the crops that we already plant, in order to get the good harvest.
— How do You think should agrarians achieve the goal in terms of the climate changes, which are already being observed?
Indeed, the climate is changing, and becomes less demanding. At the same time, the planting period of winter crops becomes less favourable. Most commonly, it includes the high temperatures in August and the first half of September, the deficit of precipitations, respectively, low reserves of productive moisture content in the soil. First of all, it is necessary to make the correct selection of forecrops for less impact on the yield figures. In addition, it is necessary to take into account the varieties of plants, because they must be as adaptive as possible to the weather conditions where they are grown. To date, I believe that the domestic varieties of winter wheat are better than the foreign ones.
Generally, if Ukrainian agrarians keep the existing agrotechnological recommendations and requirements created by the domestic scientific institutions, they will undoubtedly achieve the maximum harvest results.
Interviewed by Elena Cherednichenko, APK-Inform Agency