Russia is not well-known by the Western world. The agricultural giant does play a decisive role in the market. But how limited is the country’s potential?
Southern Federal District:
Black soil gold
The Southern Federal District, which includes the Krasnodar and Stavropol territories, as well as the Rostov region, covers an area of more than 400 000 km². So, there is a place for agricultural holdings, which sometimes reach a size of several thousand hectares. Wheat, barley, corn, sunflower and rapeseed are the main crops, but peas, chickpeas and bast fiber grow there as well. These lands are of high value for agriculture. They contain a high percentage of humus and are called “chernozem”. Chernozem literally translates from Russian as “black soil”. People often use the “black gold” metaphor (one more source of income for Russia after crude oil, another black gold). Chernozem is very fertile due to the high content of phosphoric acids, phosphorus and ammonia, from 4 to 16% of humus and from 40 to 90% of calcium. This type of soil is found in Eurasia, but also in North and South America. Nevertheless, Russia is the luckiest with 52% of the world’s black soil area. Agronomists in Russia call chernozem the perfect natural material for growing crops. All components in these soils are balanced and are easily accessible for plants. In addition to its rich composition, it is resistant to rain and drought. However, not everything is so cloudless…
South of Russia:
Risk farming area
Useful properties accumulated in chernozem for thousands of years. Intensive farming does not allow the soil to rest, therefore, despite the application of fertilizers, the level of humus decreases from year to year. So, the maximum content of humus does not exceed 13-14%. In the chernozems of our ancestors, this figure was above 16%.
Another issue is the climate change. In the southern region of Russia there is a lack of precipitation, especially in some areas. So, in one of the farms we visited; from the beginning of January to March of this year, only 60-70 mm of precipitation were registered. Old-time farmers say that even 20-30 years ago winters were much snowier, and precipitations were more abundant. It is too early to talk about global changes, but weather forecasters talk about a higher tendency for long-lasting droughts or, on the contrary, for periods with heavy rains washing out topsoil.
Another problem are sudden changes in temperature. So, during spring temperatures can be displayed at +5°C in the morning, while the temperature could rise to +35°C in the afternoon. In addition to that, the transition from winter to summer and from summer to winter is quite short and sudden.
Thus, the rich composition of chernozems and large areas for agricultural needs are compensated by unsustainable climatic conditions with insufficient precipitation. Despite the large potential, Russia’s agricultural production could remain limited by climatic factors.
Source : Rocscience Inc.
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