March 4, 2010


Poor fertiliser use hurting Ukraine grain

 


Imbalanced fertiliser regimes, prompted by a lack of farm finance and a rising rate of winterkill, will reduce Ukraine's grain production this year despite a rise in sowings.


The harsh winter caused plant loss of up to 60% in some eastern Ukrainian farms, although crops in other parts of the country were protected by snow blankets. The most frost-damaged plants are in weak crops of winter barley and poorly winter-resistant West European varieties of winter wheat, said UkrAgroConsult.


With 10.3% of winter crops in weak condition, compared with 6.1% a year ago, winterkill rates were on course to return to historic levels of 6-10% after two seasons of less significant damage.


Crops also faced the threat of poor fertiliser management as farmers, estimated to possess only half the UAH24 billion (US$3 billion) needed for spring sowing and field work, grappled with a shortage of loans, on which annual interest rates were typically 20-30%.


While farmers were likely to keep fertiliser applications at about the same as last year's 62kg per hectares, they were likely to make "disproportionate" use of nitrogen, the cheapest nutrient. Producers will apply phosphate at lower rates and even less potash, which may lead to acidification of soils and worsening soil fertility, thereby limiting future crop yields, said the analysis group.


UkrAgroConsult pegged yields of winter wheat, Ukraine's biggest grain crop, falling 10.4% to 2.82 tonnes per hectare.


The overall grain crop would drop by 1.89 million tonnes to 43.5 million tonnes, despite an extra 275,000 hectares coming into production.