Considering tendencies in the global food chain and with the aim of optimising utilisation of its own resources, SSAH Group follows a system of integrated, sustainable production, transport and logistics of agricultural products, which the group produces, processes and trades. The growing world population demands more and more food products. Pure organic production cannot sustainably meet the food requirements of Earth’s population. Moreover, as a rule, organic agricultural produce has a higher unit cost of production than conventionally grown produce. This, in turn, makes organic produce inaccessible for most of the planet’s population. To balance the nutritional needs of the planet and preserve natural resources, an alternative is required. For open field production in the south of Ukraine, the alternative is found in regenerative agriculture, which includes the principles of conserving natural resources and minimisation of use of energy and artificially produced, chemical resources.
A holistic approach to land use, integrating natural regulation of farming activity to achieve maximum replacement of manufactured resources and maintain farming profitability.
Regenerative, integrated crop production:
The history of cropping in Ukraine, dating back to the soviet collectivisation of agriculture, was mostly production driven, with little thought given to conservation of natural resources or the environment. Post-soviet practices, driven largely by economic necessity and lack of advisory facilities, have led to further soil degradation and environmental damage.
- Minimising or avoiding tillage
- Eliminating bare soil
- Integrated pest management (IPM)
- Encouraging plant diversity
- Ecological Infrastructure management
- Integrated nutrient management
- Cover cropping
- Minimise agrochemical inputs
- Water management
Minimising or avoiding tillage and eliminating bare soil – in practice, with a wheat – OSR – wheat – sunflower rotation this means wheat is established no-till, possibly with chopping of previous crop residues. OSR is established using strip-till equipment, leaving as much as possible of the soil surface undisturbed. Sunflower is either planted strip-till or after subsoiling with minimal incorporation of previous crop residues.
Such an approach avoids bare topsoil, which in turn minimises erosion and soil runoff.
In southern Ukraine, dry conditions frequently make the use of cover crops unrealistic. However, if conditions allow, legumes or buckwheat, for example, can be used between OSR harvest and wheat planting, and post wheat harvest in preparation for succeeding sunflower.
Ecological infrastructure – this is mainly inter-field windbreaks, gulleys, watercourse, ponds and road verges. Farms can improve their environmental benefit by planting a variety of trees and bushes and planting “buffer strips” around field edges with wildflower mixes which encourage development of beneficial, including pollenating insects. These areas are simply left completely untreated, allowing the natural local flora to establish and develop.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
Integrated pest management (IPM) means thoroughly studying all possible methods of controlling agricultural pests, diseases and weeds with subsequent integration of corresponding measures which hinder the development of harmful organisms and limit the usage of pesticides and other methods to economically justifiable levels to minimise risks to human and animal health and to the environment. In IPM, attention is paid to growing healthy crops while minimising damage to the wider environment using natural methods of pathogen control.
General applied IPM principles:
1. Being warned of development of and suppressing of harmful organisms should be a target achieved by combining different actions:
• Rotation and growing of intermediate crops
• Using rational methods (for example, disinfection of soil prepared for planting, timing and density of planting, cover crops, soil and resource conserving tillage methods, direct planting)
• Using resistant varieties and certified seeds
• Ensuring balanced supply of crop nutrients and water supply
• Preventing the spread of harmful organisms by breaking their cycle of development (for example, removing diseased plants or parts of plants and crop residues, and regular cleaning of machines and equipment)
• Regular scouting inspections, forecasting and carrying out timely prophylactic measures
3. Taking justifiable measures
• Based on results of scouting, and considering local conditions (production system, weather conditions), justified decisions of the necessity, timing and method of crop plant protection. A full analysis of risks and options should be made, including growing conditions and economic damage thresholds.
4. Non-chemical methods of plant protection
Consider the use of biological or other methods of pathogen control rather than chemical means, especially if they can achieve desired results in controlling the damaging organisms.
5. Using certified CPCs
Forasmuch as chemical pesticides have different levels of toxicity to other living organisms, consider their dispersal in the environment and use on food crops. Always consider non-chemical alternatives to CPCs. Only use certified, approved for use CPCs.
• With the aim of constantly improving crop protection measures, carry out checks and evaluations of effectiveness and efficacy of crop protection measures used based on observations and recordings.
Main IPM benefits
- Reduced risk to human health and the environment
- Limiting development of pathogen resistance to CPCs
- Economy in plant protection
- Improved produce quality
- Conservation of natural resources
Integrated producers, with their own, in-house production, transport, processing and logistic assets can provide full traceability of their produce, which in turn is an added value factor for their clients (traders, processors and final consumers). The formation of any party of produce includes information of the full growing history of each sub-party it includes. Thus, downstream customers can have full confidence in the produce they are buying.
SSAH traceability system includes the following elements:
• Cropwise field and equipment monitoring integrated with accounts database – monitors harvest of grain, tank by tank, load by load from the field
• Elevator quality control. Each load, now with its individual party number is checked for relevant quality parameters – moisture, specific weight, protein content, damage, contamination etc. The load is assigned, after cleaning and drying as necessary, to a store containing produce of similar quality.
• On sale of produce, the customer can receive full information about each lot of produce he is buying, with the ability to know how the lot was grown, where, with what inputs and with knowledge of who was responsible for producing the crop.
• The buyer, be he a trader or processor, can pass on the traceability data to his customers allowing the final product to be traced “from field to fork”.