Tatarstan agriculturists fear losing up to 20% of future grain harvest due to heatwave

Landowners are putting effort to save sprouts and winter crops and hope for measures taken by the Tatarstan Ministry of Agriculture

Abnormally hot weather reigned in Tatarstan for two weeks — daytime temperatures have broken all records in the last centenary. Experts of the republican hydrometeorological service, the hot and windy weather seriously dried the soil. Despite the weather conditions, rural districts have almost completed the sowing season, said head of the Tatarstan Ministry of Agriculture and Food Marat Zyabbarov said on 22 May — only maize, rapeseed and potato left to be planted. Though both the minister and experts of the agricultural sector fear that the drought will have a negative impact on the final harvest, winter crops will suffer the greatest damage if rains don’t visit the republic.

Timely measures will help save seeds

Winter and spring crops have been a top priority of the republic’s agriculturists. At a meeting with Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov on 22 May, head of the Tatarstan Ministry of Agriculture and Food Marat Zyabbarov said that winter crops almost didn’t have problems, as the soil had been deeply tilled in the autumn. He thinks that the root and foliar feed can help to save the potential of winter crops — “a lot of households are working in this area considering scientific recommendations”. But as for spring crops, the hot weather brought to a rapid proliferation of pests and weeds. Given the unfavourable weather conditions, Zyabbarov urged the heads of rural districts and households to constantly monitor the fields to timely take the necessary technological approaches.

The minister also reminded the audience of the necessity of considering beekeepers’ interests when taking protective measures: “I am addressing the heads of households again. The responsibility for the integrity of bee families is on your shoulders, this is why I require to strictly follow the regulation of these works. The head of a household is personally held accountable for every case of dead bees”.

The hot weather and absence of rains affected not only the state of plants but also animal husbandry. Due to the heat stress cows are experiencing, milk yield is going down — the republic is daily falling short of about 5 tonnes of milk. The head of the Ministry of Agriculture advised the heads of households to provide an uninterrupted water supply for animals and create the optimal microclimate in barns.

The Tatarstan president, in turn, noted: “Rains are expected this weekend in the republic, which I hope will have a positive impact on the harvest. Care and the quality of fodder are also crucial.”

“This abnormal hot weather is an exam”

Experts surveyed by Realnoe Vremya think that the lasting hot weather can hurt the harvest. Vice Chairman of the Tatarstan State Council’s Committee for Environment, Use of Natural Resources, Agro-Industrial and Food Policy Takhir Khadeyev thinks that if the weather conditions don’t change and rains don’t fall in the republic, the harvest of winter crops can turn out 15-20% below the previous years and that of spring crops 5-10%: “As for vegetables, sunflower, they don’t have problems, while it is important today to protect spring crops from pests — the protection is going to the forefront — and to provide nutrition. It is also important to get rid of old plants.”

“Tatarstan is in a zone of risky agriculture. And this abnormal hot weather is an exam. Firstly, it detects whose heads have a real drought, tests the technologies existing in agriculture for liveability. Secondly, it reveals the level of knowledge and action of the agronomic service in extreme weather conditions. Some have found solutions that are adapted to drought in equal conditions. They won’t lose, which is a big plus for everybody.”

The expert is convinced that not only landowners but also scientific and educational establishments, executive (including the republic’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food) and legislative power agencies are sitting the exam — “how the laws and regulatory acts that were adopted for a long period of time provide food security today and tomorrow are used in the fields and at homes, in flats, chain stores of Tatarstan”.

Head of the Tatarstan Association of Farms Kamiyar Baytemirov thinks that, of course, the hot weather has a negative impact on the state of affairs in the agro-industrial sector but not significantly because May is the time when the soil still has water that remained after snow melting.

“If such weather cataclysms persist, there will be negative consequences. Plants need a sufficient amount of humidity to develop. We will likely feel the result of this weather for winter crops in late June and for spring crops in July.”

The introduction of a land improvement programme is one of the efficient methods that will allow agriculturists not to worry about weather abnormalities, Baytemirov thinks. “Moreover, to not only simply pour water that will evaporate because of the hot weather but deliver water to plants, moreover, develop land recultivation to get the biggest harvest with the fewest costs”. Talking about harvest forecasts, the head of the Association of Farmers assumed that this year’s harvest would be below last year’s: “Everything will depend on the weather (if it starts raining now, the sprouts and winter crops can gain strength) and the measures agriculturists are taking. If we are talking about the harvest and fear it will be poor, it is necessary to resow the land with late crops. It is necessary to urgently take measures, and this mainly depends on the Ministry of Agriculture of the republic, how it works in these conditions.”

Unfavourable forecasts made by agriculturists from Udmurtia and Orenburg

The heatwave, which is characteristic of July, arrived at the height of the sowing season not only in Tatarstan but also in some other Russian regions. Such weather can damage the future harvest, experts surveyed by Interfax suppose. Much will turn on, the newspaper writes, how much humidity the soil accumulated and how long the abnormal hot weather will stay.

So the sowing pace in Udmurtia has slowed down — only 82,4% of scheduled spring crops have been planted, the press service of the republic’s Ministry of Agriculture says. The ministry notes that the hot weather not only takes away the soil’s humidity but also became a reason for weeds’ growth, while dangerous pests have appeared in grain fields because of it.

The Ministry of Agriculture of Orenburg Oblast are making unfavourable forecasts for the development of seeds in the short term: nowadays the soil still has reserves of productive humidity, but the amount is very small, the ministry says.

“The high air temperature that established in the region, without doubt, can influence the growth and development of plants,” the press service of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food in Samara Oblast claimed. However, Samara agriculturists haven’t yet predicted the impact of the hot weather on the quality of the would-be harvest, since it is too early. The sowing season of spring crops in this region is 80% complete at the moment, industrial and late spring crops are being sowed now.

The Ministry of Agriculture of Saratov Oblast considers that the period of the abnormal hot weather will be short and unable to influence the harvest and the grain quality.

By Angelina Panchenko