Ukraine gains from WA no-till

25 Jan, 2005 10:00 PM
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A GROUP of Ukrainian farmers has gained an insight into WA local farming systems and provided evidence of the expanded role former soviet countries will play in world agriculture.

The group from the Agro-Soyuz company investigated no-till cropping practice and intensive livestock operations during their visit.

Agro-Soyuz formed from a 7000ha commune farm that existed before the fall of communism in Ukraine in 1992.

It grew from a group of farmers with 3ha holdings each, to building no-till seeders, selling machinery spare parts and running a logistics and agronomy service.

WA farm consultant Bill Crabtree visited Ukraine at the invitation of Agro-Soyuz, to speak on no-till.

He backed up his advice in WA paddocks during their visit.

Mr Crabtree said Ukraine was well advanced in no-till technology but its farmers were eager to learn more from Australians, who were world leaders.

"They've got a 60ft air seeder and they do it flat out," Mr Crabtree said.

"They've actually got the record for the fastest seeded paddock in the world.

"They did 572ha in a 24-hour period using a Caterpillar with B-Line, that's Australian-made machinery, with a Horsch-Anderson seeder."

He said the Ukrainians were interested in finding out more about the economics of no-till and how to get the word out to the broader farming community.

"They've formed their own no-till group and are organising events and information," he said.

"With the economics there are three or four things you need look at, firstly the time of sowing, the ability to get into the tough ground, which is done with early sowing, and the ability to harvest water in dry years into the furrow.

"The immediate yield increases of no-till are about 15pc and with the long-term improvements in soil structure you can record up to 50pc increases in yield."

He said Agro-Soyuz was setting up an agricultural learning centre with contributors from around the world.

The result of contested elections in Ukraine was important because it was the leading force in agriculture of the former soviet countries.

It was likely to provide competition for Australia in the future.

"Labour is very cheap, they've got it available at $1/hour, so they're very competitive at what they do," he said.

Mr Crabtree said Australia could provide knowledge and technology on farming systems but Ukraine was likely to do more business with Canada, which had a similar climate and conditions.

Agriculture Department pig research and development officer Bruce Mullan said the Ukrainians were interested in looking at pig shelters.

"They were very impressed with the building design here, they are very hungry for knowledge," he said.

"I think the layout and design they use is not too dissimilar but it gets down to fine details, such as where you put feeders."

He suspected the labour in Ukraine, though cheap, was not as well trained as it could be.

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