Seed – UAI sources seed for its crops from recognised international and Ukrainian seed producers. Maize and sunflower crops are grown from F1 hybrid seed that is purchased every year. Hybrid seed consistently gives yield and quality advantages over open-pollinated seed varieties. In addition to maize and sunflower, hybrid seeds are available for oilseed rape. Wheat, soy and barley crops are grown from elite seeds that are bought in from plant breeders then multiplied on four of the Group’s farms that have certified seed production status for these crops.
Fertiliser and crop protection chemicals– The use of mineral fertilisers is an important part of the Group’s production model. Fertilisers are applied according to the needs of the crop to produce the harvest, and balanced against the natural soil fertility, which is measured in laboratory analyses of soils on a regular basis. Fertilisers used by UAI are produced in Ukraine and Russia. The main fertiliser elements are Nitrogen (N), which is applied in the form of ammonium nitrate or urea; phosphorus (P), applied in various forms of phosphate; and potassium (K), applied in various salt forms. Minor nutrients like sulphur (S), magnesium (Mg) and boron (B) are usually applied by sprayer in a solution mixed with crop protection chemicals.
UAI has an integrated pest-management policy aimed at minimising the use of crop protection chemicals, given the detrimental effects they can have on the environment, by using alternative, non-chemical methods of controlling crop pathogens. The company uses the minimum of prophylactic treatments against weed, disease and pest damage, and only when from experience and knowledge of good practice a prophylactic treatment is economically and environmentally justifiable.
Crop rotation – UAI’s crop rotation includes a range of shallow- and deep-rooted crops, which improves the soil structure. Cropping rotation capitalises on synergies that stem from succession planting of one crop after another. For example, the nitrogen that is fixed from the atmosphere by soybeans is beneficial to following cereal crops especially wheat and maize. Crop rotation also forms an important part of non-chemical pest control, breaking the lifecycles of pests, and by not allowing the multiplication of weeds which may accumulate in a monoculture situation.
Crop mix – UAI designs its crop mix by consolidating cropping recommendations provided by individual UAI farms with business plans developed by the central management team. Priority is given to crops with the highest profitability – short-growing-cycle crops are favoured as they provide for more efficient use of capital. Accumulated experience assists in deciding which crop mix is best suited to individual farms; trends in input prices are monitored. The regional suitability of crops and resulting rotation effects are also taken into account. Currently UAI focuses on corn which accounts for 35% of its cultivated land bank. Other key crops are winter wheat (23%) and sunflowers (24%).