Many Ukrainian farmers, considering amaranth as one of the main crops for cultivation, have always been stopped, in particular, by a small amount of data on the growth of amaranth on Ukrainian black soil and on the interaction of this culture with Ukrainian soil. Farmers considered it to be a risky undertaking to be guided by the recommendations of foreign colleagues in this matter, since the peculiarities of the Ukrainian climate, combined with the peculiarities of the black soil, could give a result that differs from what the black soil gives in combination with the climate of other countries. The fears were well founded, since different pexels-photo-106387 sources reported the unpretentiousness of amaranth, that it nourishes the land in which it grows well, and vice versa, that it depletes the soil. Tellingly, various information was provided by researchers from different countries – from China to the USA.
By the end of the 90s, Ukraine became in dire need of research by Ukrainian scientists on this subject. In 2000, the Ministry of Agrarian Policy of Ukraine even worried about the problem by organizing an order for the study “Selection and primary seed production, growing technologies for green mass and high-yielding seeds suitable for the mechanized collection of amaranth varieties and their production” (state registration number 0194U12993). Research in this direction started in 2001, and in 2004 a full-fledged study of the interaction of amaranth with the soil of the forest-steppe zones of Ukraine was carried out.
The results were encouraging.
Chernozem – one of the most favorable types of soil for many crops. A rather unpretentious amaranth, which occurs in places even in the sand, grows perfectly on all kinds of black soil. This causes its distribution in the territory of Ukraine in almost all climatic zones.
But there are some regularities that reflect the greater or lesser adaptability of amaranth to the lands in this or that region of Ukraine.
For example, high-grain varieties of grain best feel in the forest-steppe zones of the Left Bank. And the best indicators of adaptability of high-oil varieties of amaranth are registered in Dnipropetrovsk, Nikolaev, Zaporozhye, Kherson regions. But in the Kharkiv, Sumy regions and in the north of Poltava, according to the observations of farmers, it makes sense to grow more wind and cold-resistant varieties of amaranth: they ultimately bring great benefits. Thus, the “gentle” high-oily varieties of the “Ultra” type require greenhouse conditions, more care, they do not like strong winds with precipitation characteristic of the north-eastern regions of Ukraine. When growing such varieties in a given geographical area, yield losses of up to 20% are possible even in relatively favorable years. At the same time, more resistant and strong varieties grown in the Voronezh, Saratov, Belgorod regions are suitable for the north-east of Ukraine much better and have higher yields than in the listed regions of Russia.
On the right bank of the Dnieper, amaranth or cereal fodder varieties are more common, which are also used as fodder and are not leaders in protein and fat content. This is probably due to both geographical features (a large number of forests) and the fact that agriculture on the Right Bank has a livestock bias. Researchers from Kharkiv Agrarian University believe that the cultivation of high-oily grain varieties of amaranth on the right bank of the Dnieper in Ukraine has significant potential, so it would be rational to use part of the agricultural land as under the more whimsical varieties of amaranth (Cherkasy region), and under more sustainable (almost forest-steppe zones of Western Ukraine).
Indicators of aridity in the forest-steppes of Ukraine and the cultivation of amaranth
The weather conditions of the forest-steppe zone of Ukraine are very unstable. This concerns both precipitation and temperature differences during the growing season of most plant crops. If we consider the hydrothermal coefficient, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012 were particularly dry. But three years in a row – in 2013, 2014 and 2015 – precipitation fell so much that many crops simply rotted. Nevertheless, in the forest-steppe zones of Ukraine, as, indeed, throughout the country, for 14,976,00,642 with the exception of the Carpathians and the Carpathians, there is a tendency to a decrease in the amount of precipitation. Crops suffer mainly from drought, and not from excessive moisture.
As for temperature, then, despite the general tendency to warming, the plants are freezing. And they are not cold at the beginning of the growing season, but closer to the middle, when, after the establishment of relatively warm weather, the temperature drops sharply, sometimes to negative values. Thus, in the spring of 2017, many cultures suffered from the snow that suddenly fell at the end of April. Similar incidents, though without snow, but only with frosts, have happened in previous years.
Amaranth in these conditions proved to be quite good. More precisely, some of its varieties.
Strangely enough, the instability of weather conditions played partly into the hands of researchers, because, although it significantly reduced the productivity of some crops, it allowed to identify the most resistant amaranth varieties. Considering that droughts occurred more often than heavy rains, it was possible to determine drought-resistant varieties. As for moisture resistant, the researchers from the Kharkov National Agrarian University, who, in fact, tracked the stability of amaranth, also noted several varieties. But if drought-resistant varieties in the Ukrainian conditions were recommended as part of scientific research, then moisture-resistant varieties that are good specifically for the Ukrainian forest-steppe lands were named but not recommended “officially”.
Almost all cereal and fodder varieties growing on the territory of Ukraine were classified as drought-resistant, which are:
- had a significant stem diameter (1.5-2 cm);
- differed in height (from 1.5 m);
- different pomp panic.
Among them are the “Giant” and its varieties “The Orange Giant”, the “Golden Giant” and the “Red Giant”, as well as the “Kharkovsky-1” and “Voronezhsky”, bred in appropriate locations and, obviously, therefore distinguished by resistance to the local climate .
Oddly enough, “Giants” and “Kharkivsky-1” were recognized by researchers as the most moisture resistant varieties. In addition to them, Aztec and varieties of amaranth crimson in general showed good stability before a large amount of precipitation.
The experiments were carried out on different types of soil, which allowed eventually to talk about the vastness of the study. The first experiments, however, were carried out on podzolized and typical chernozem soils, of which for the most part consists the forest-steppe zone of the left-bank part of Ukraine, as well as a small part of the forest-steppes on the Right Bank. Interestingly, on these soils, the Helios and Ultra varieties also showed themselves well, which are more “capricious” than those listed above.
Similar – very high – stability of amaranth will show, according to the researchers, on ordinary and southern black earth, since these soils are similar in many characteristics (absorption capacity, air and water balance) to the soils on which the studies were conducted.
But these varieties of amaranth researchers of Kharkov University delighted with the drought resistance on the black soil. Very worthy of this culture has shown itself on chestnut soils, which are particularly dry. The humus content in them is extremely insignificant – only 3%, which makes it unsuitable for chestnut soils to grow demanding grain crops, because even with average dryness such crops will not survive or give a very bad crop. The yield of these varieties of amaranth on chestnut soils was lower than on black soil, only 15-20%, which is a very good indicator for this type of soil.
But the varieties “Helios” and “Ultra”, unfortunately, showed themselves on chestnut soils rather poorly: the yield decreased by almost 40%.
Amaranth cold resistance: optimum indicators for cultivation
Amaranth varieties are called cold-resistant, in which destruction processes are not observed and which do not stop growing, resulting in a predicted yield, with a decrease in temperature in the range from 0 ° C to + 10 ° C.
Destructive processes under the influence of low temperatures in less cold-resistant varieties of amaranth are characterized mainly by damage to cell membranes and an increase in their permeability. As a result of these damages, potassium is released from the cytoplasm, photosynthesis, oxidative and elitefon.ru_20704 photosynthetic phosphorylation are disturbed, and, thus, the further full development of the plant becomes impossible.
The seriousness of the disorders largely depends on the constituent elements of the cell membranes, primarily on the types and percentage of lipids – saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. Thus, unsaturated fatty acids have a lower melting point. As a result, they with a noticeable decrease in temperature (within positive values) do not harden. In contrast, saturated fatty acids solidify at low temperatures, transforming from a liquid to a gel-like state, and at close to 0 ° C – to a solid state. Thus, plants that have a large amount of unsaturated fatty acids in their cellular membranes turn out to be more cold-resistant by preserving the plasticity of the cellular membranes. The varieties that distinguish the prevalence of saturated fats in cell membranes are less cold-resistant, because cell membranes become less mobile, less plastic, and ultimately less functional as a result of lowering temperature, because metabolism and energy processes are impaired by their mobility.
The most amount of oleic, linoleic and linoleic unsaturated fatty acids in the composition of cell membranes was registered by Kharkov researchers in the varieties of the type “Giant” – “Orange Giant”, “Golden Giant” and “Red Giant”, as well as in the variety “Student”.
The following is a list of grain and feed varieties of amaranth by the amount of unsaturated fatty acids in the cell membranes in descending order.
These varieties have the highest content of unsaturated fatty acids in cell membranes and therefore, according to the researchers, they have the best cold resistance properties. It is worth noting that “Voronezh” and “Helios” are early-ripening varieties, apparently also due to the high content of unsaturated acids.
In fairness, amaranth as a culture as a whole has a rather high content of unsaturated fatty acids in cell membranes and therefore is much more cold-resistant than, for example, corn. Thus, the growth of most varieties of corn almost completely stops at + 10 ° C, while the vast majority of amaranth varieties that grow in Ukraine continue to grow at this temperature and ultimately yield the same yields as at higher temperatures.
Also, almost all amaranth varieties grown in Ukraine have enzymes that retain high activity even at positive temperatures close to 0 ° C. As a result, plants switch from glycolytic to pentose phosphate breathing. Simply put, they continue to receive the required amount of oxygen, while plants that are unable to switch to the pentose phosphate method freeze, including because they cannot breathe properly.
However, a number of varieties of amaranth, as shown by Kharkov studies, feels bad when the temperature drops below + 5 ° С. These are the varieties “Opopeo”, “In Memory of Covas”, “The Emperor”, “Roth Dame” and practically all decorative ones. When the air temperature drops to + 5 ° C, the permeability of the membranes of these varieties greatly increases, organic acids enter the cytoplasm and destroy chlorophyll. As a result of these processes, a reaction occurs and a substance called “pheophytin” appears, having a characteristic olive color. On the leaves, its appearance is reflected in the form of brown spots. In the presence of such spots, it is safe to say that photosynthesis is stopped in the plant. Therefore, these varieties are recommended to be grown in greenhouse conditions.
Amaranth and its impact on black soil
Soil depletion is one of the major concerns of Ukrainian agricultural producers, who have small farms. This problem in relation to the cultivation of amaranth was considered in the Odessa State Agrarian University in 2012. The results showed that the prejudice of many novice farmers against amaranth is not supported by anything.
The main causes of soil depletion are:
- the absorption by the plant of large amounts of minerals and compounds that are in the soil;
- plant release of a large amount of toxins with the aim of “defeating competitors” – weeds and other plants that used to grow or try to grow on the same piece of soil that the plant secreted toxins occupied;
- improper maintenance, leading to the destruction of soil layers.
The latter reason is due only to the human factor, and the problem is solved by studying the agrotechnically correct care of the soil in accordance with the characteristics of each plot.
The first two reasons are triggered by natural mechanisms that differ in different cultures.
It should be noted that amaranth is one of the most low-toxic plants. Obviously, the reason for this is the physical strength and size of its roots, which do not allow to infiltrate into “its” territory due to its size and branching. In other words, the soil on which amaranth is grown does not suffer from the excess of the level of toxins and, thus, can contribute much longer to a good harvest of this crop than in the situation with highly toxic plants. For example, corn “fights” for its territory with other plants vigorously and significantly depletes the soil with toxins for a year, which makes it necessary to observe crop rotation and constantly pick up other crops.
Slightly more “harmful” to the soil is amaranth in relation to the consumption of minerals. So, his need for potassium, calcium and other elements is quite high. Moreover, it should be noted, grain varieties are more demanding on the amount of minerals than forage. It is also logical that amaranth varieties differing in larger size (over 2 m) deplete the soil faster than smaller varieties (about 1.5 m). However, it cannot be said that amaranth is detrimental to the soil with regard to the consumption of minerals: it can grow 3-4 years in a row (we consider grain and fodder varieties; wilder varieties can last longer), on restored ones – 2-3 years in a row.
The problem of soil depletion due to the consumption of minerals by amaranth is solved at the current stage of agrotechnology development by the method of artificial soil mineralization after harvest and / or before sowing (depending on season, weather conditions, planting plans and specific fertilizer features). Additional soil fertilizer makes them fully suitable for growing any varieties of amaranth for very long periods of time – up to ten years. This makes the culture attractive for farmers and industrialists who intend to develop this particular culture or consider it as part of the farm, for example, as the main element of feed for livestock and poultry.
It is curious that some species of amaranth are used as sideratov amateur gardeners. Mostly these wild varieties of amaranth (shchiritsa), but in some cases, the simplest feed are used. Researchers at Odessa State Agrarian University found that amaranth has a positive effect on the soil as follows:
It is an excellent natural baking powder, which “plows” the soil without destroying the layers, which occurs when the plowing technique is not properly used. The reason for this are its large and branched roots.
It increases the level of moisture permeability and prevents the washing out of the minerals necessary for the cultivation of most garden crops, again thanks to the extensive root system, as well as the “attraction” of the minerals to the roots.
It protects against weeds thanks to strong roots, which displace other, weaker plant elements.
It saturates the soil with nitrogen, which favorably affects the cultivation of garden crops, and also contributes to the speedy restoration of the soil after the cultivation of highly toxic crops (cabbage, etc.).
Amaranth as a siderata is also good for the drought and cold tolerance mentioned above. So, it can be planted in almost any conditions in any weather and at the same time it will perform all the functions of the green manure. Many varieties of amaranth, used as siderats (wild and close to wild), can be planted several times per season, as they grow very quickly, gain green mass and perform their functions. In addition, amaranth is well combined with other green manure plants, for example, with legumes.
Amaranth used as a siderata is cut off quite early, without waiting for it to bloom.
In conclusion, it is worth noting that amaranth is a very suitable culture for Ukrainian lands.
Firstly, the Ukrainian climate allows to grow almost all its varieties, including high-protein and high-oil. Moreover, it is obvious that it is on these varieties that it is worthwhile to dwell, since at this point in all areas of the food industry, as well as medicine, there is a need for raw materials with high protein content, as well as unsaturated fatty acids, which are rich in amaranth oil. Proceeding from this, it can be concluded that agricultural producers, who will select amaranth varieties that match their capabilities and their microclimatic zone, will benefit.
Secondly, amaranth can be grown in almost any region of Ukraine – again, taking into account local peculiarities. But the Ukrainian soils are undoubtedly suitable for this crop at 95% of the country’s trava-amarant territory, and therefore amaranth can be grown even in regions that are not quite favorable for the cultivation of more demanding crops, namely in the north and in the western regions.
Thirdly, amaranth is a drought-resistant and cold-resistant culture. This is important for those agricultural producers who are afraid to take risks living in arid, for example, southern regions or in regions where the steppe zone dominates near large bodies of water, leading to unpredictable weather conditions. For such regions, amaranth is a much less risky crop, which in some circumstances, although it may bring less benefits than, for example, wheat or rye, but in the end will secure the farmer from losses in other, more unfavorable circumstances.
Fourth, amaranth is a plant-friendly plant. This is especially true with the intention to grow only one culture and develop a business based on it. It is also important for pastoralists, since the vast majority of forage plants require a crop rotation, which is not always convenient for the farmer. Amaranth can grow in one place for many years, which alleviates the problem of feeding livestock.
Thus, amaranth can be called a profitable crop for a Ukrainian agricultural producer. It is possible that in the future it will become an important link in the domestic agro-industry. In the meantime, Ukrainian agrarians still have time to occupy a promising niche.