The discussion will focus on the cultivation of organic amaranth on the example of one of the farms in the Transcarpathian region. A person who does not have experience in agriculture and plant growing has been growing organic amaranth for two years and intends to continue working in this direction. He is also willing to share experiences and help newcomers.
Alexander Ischenko and his choice of activities
There is much to say about the importance of environmentally-oriented transformations in Europe and Ukraine, respect for the environment, the need to manage in harmony with nature. For Alexander Ischenko, now the chairman of Organikagro LLC in Transcarpathia, almost three years ago, the choice was due to its own reasons. About them, about the experience and some conclusions, he said in an interview.
– There was no money to buy seeds – corn or something else, plus there was organic land, and the land was reluctant to “chemize”, as well as because of the cost, since amaranth sowing material needed only 1 kilogram.
Did not know anything. And according to rumors, “everything will be fine, amaranth grows well, there will be no problems”.
– And your first experience …
– 1 ton per hectare in the first year.
– Do you think this is a good result for your expenses?
– For a man who had never engaged in agriculture, to whom no one suggested how to plant (from those people who had been in agriculture for decades, this was a colossal result. It is also necessary to take into account what technique they sow, what technique they cleaned, this is a mega-colossal harvest.
– And what technique sowed, cleaned?
– Everything is old, still Soviet, 50s of production. Combine was 78th year of release. Therefore, there were many losses.
How sown? Trial and error. The UPS was an old seeder, the seed wheels drove 0.8 millimeters. We have studied the difficulties and nuances, and in the third year we are already aware of … We already know what the nuances can be in growing amaranth, and many questions have already arisen to processors, to those who sell seeds. We start asking these questions, and we want to get answers to them. We do not strive to sow 200 or 300 hectares of amaranth – we strive to increase yields, not to remove 1 ton, but one and a half, for example, or two. And to bring this amaranth to its logical conclusion: to understand where the amaranth can be dried, where it can be cleaned, if it is needed, and how much it will cost in terms of financial costs.
– Finance costs: what can you say to newcomers?
– In each region, the costs will be their own. If a newcomer has land, for example, 10 hectares of land, and he wants to sow 10 hectares of amaranth, and he will only need to hire equipment, then the costs depend on the cost of equipment rental, since in each area the pricing policy may be different. Further: if these 10 hectares are leased, the payment for shareholders is also different. A beginner can calculate this amount by himself. Knowing the technological map, knowing what operations he needs to make per hectare, knowing the pricing policy in his area, he will be able to calculate how much money he will spend.
A separate issue is the use of plant protection products. It is believed that to get a high yield of any crop without them is simply impossible. This also applies to amaranth, despite the fact that it is known as an unpretentious plant that survives in any temperature mode and under any conditions. Here experienced plant growers can say that every crop loves care and responds with the best crop.
Alexander Ishchenko harvested two amaranth crops, selectively applying sparing plant protection products. For the new season he has special plans.
– Applied protection from aphids, fleas, but all – biologics. No feedings on the sheet, no fertilizer. This year we will have a different approach to this. In Kiev, there was a conference of amaranth manufacturers, and a representative of the Odessa Institute, the Biocenter, spoke there, and he spoke specifically on biologics, on amaranth feeding, and we are already considering this issue. After all, the plant also wants to eat, and he needs some kind of food. For two years we simply grew amaranth: we simply sowed, we simply collected … The Association helped with the sale of the harvest.
The issues of marketing the grown crop are directly related to the possibilities of its processing. In this respect, Alexander Ischenko has a certain opinion.
– For any product (corn, wheat, etc.) there are some volumes, and the farmer, when sowing the area, understands that he will have such and such volume of production, and this volume can be sold. According to amaranth, I would also like to understand this volume, and that this volume be fixed by the contract. So that I, the farmer, understand that I have collected 50 tons, and the processor will take these 50 tons from me.
– But you yourself are looking for someone who buys these 50 tons from you, right?
– Right. But the processors do not want to conclude a contract with me for the next harvest, because they have doubts: will they grow, and which will be fat, and which will be squale. Because of this, they do not want to take responsibility and say that they undertake to take all the amaranth away from me. Of course, it makes me alarming that I will grow a crop, I will invest a certain amount of money for cleaning the grain, for drying, for processing, and I cannot sell it. This is not wheat, not corn, not sunflower. There are a lot of butter churns that will take a sunflower – yes, the price will be different. With amaranth it is more difficult, because for the whole of Ukraine there are two or three processors who can process it and bring it to a logical conclusion – either process it into grits, or make oil from it.
Everything comes up against the paper: the farmer wants to conclude an agreement with the processor for the supply of goods, from a company that sells seeds to him, wants to get paper about the quality of the seed, that some laboratory tests have been done, tests have been done – as per any other culture. Every company that sells planting material, guarantees that its planting material is the best, it has such and such germination, a preliminary calculation of such and such tonnage. So far, there is no such thing that a farmer could give a processor a guarantee that he would grow a quality product. Here is such a vicious circle.
– Organic Amaranth. Now we are talking about mandatory certification.
– Yes. First certified land. Then they filed an application, a specialist arrived, they took tests here, that we don’t add any chemistry, we don’t cheat, and then we were given a certificate that we have organic amaranth and we can sell it as an organic product.
– Volumes of cultivated amaranth not increased?
– No. We are still learning. For example, the terms of sowing: we for two years realized that we should try to plant it in May. For two years there were mistakes, we wrote them down, and for 2019 we will try not to make mistakes, and we hope that the volume will increase from a hectare.
And this despite the lack of agricultural education. However, as Alexander noted, everyone helps – both the family and colleagues.
Yes, an interesting feature has been noticed about the properties of amaranth, which for some reason very few people say. So, in the Ishchenko family, amaranth tea is well known, and its properties are appreciated.
– It has an invigorating property. If you drink it before bedtime, then 100% – until 12, you will not fall asleep until one o’clock, so you need to sleep, and walk hearty. Here is a tea. I like it, and I generally like herbs, different teas.