Russia: Lack of snow leads to frost kill

Farmers Weekly rounds up a year’s news through the eyes of farmers across the globe. Today we hear from Robin Jewer in Russia

Robin Jewer is a farmer and agronomist with Andropovsk Farms in the southern Russian region of Stavropol Krai. He manages 18,000ha, spread over 180km, which is split into six blocks. Cropping includes 14,000ha of wheat, oilseed rape, sunflowers, peas, linseed, maize and potatoes.

Russia is not for the faint-hearted. We have a five-month winter, a very dry spring and hot, dry summer.

This year has been even tougher than usual such that weather extremes have dominated 2012. Over the three months from December to the end of February, 69 days reached a maximum of just -10C. At night, temperatures plunged to -25C.

Snow usually provides crops with moisture. But this year little or no snowfall resulted in a lot of crops being lost through frost kill.

Key facts

Population 142 million

Average rainfall (a year) 200-750mm (southern Russia)

Agricultural area 216mha

Russia is the world’s largest barley grower, with £16m tonnes produced each year

In the summer we had a very dry spell with just 10mm of rain in six weeks.

September and October rainfalls were also low, with about 12mm in each month. It made sunflower harvest very easy and planting wheat a dream but germination was not very good. The seeds just sat there making one’s blood pressure a little high.

The knock-on effect of this tough year was an announcement by the authorities that Russia would need to import more than 2m tonnes of feed grain. That compares with an average of about 800,000t of feed grain in a normal year.

Pavel Skurikhin, the grain union president, said farmers will have to choose between slaughtering livestock or feeding them with seed grain in January.

As I said, Russia is not for the faint-hearted.

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