International Perspective: Farming Operations in Poland
One of my recent trips took me to Poland to meet our distributor Kamil Szymanczak, who owns the company KAM-ROL (www.kamrol.pl), located near Warsaw. I spent very little time in the city but instead headed southeast to the Lublin region. On the way through here, we met with another dealer, Henry Pawelec, who also sells Ag Leader products through his company PAWROL (www.pawrol.lublin.pl), and he covers the eastern and southern parts of Poland. Both companies’ core business is soil sampling, and between them they cover some 30-40,000ha (75 – 100,000ac) of soil sampling each year.
It is on the back of this that precision farming business started, and more farmers now want to spread fertiliser using VRT. Whilst it is fair to say that the majority of customers in Poland still apply fertiliser flat rate, there is an increasing number that are now employing VRT and can see the cost benefits involved. There are approximately 1.6m farms in Poland, but a farm is classed as anything over 1ha (2.47ac).
Large farms such as the ones I visited are far fewer at the moment, but undoubtedly will increase in numbers as smaller farms merge to become larger, more economical units. The first farm I visited was “BiStar” Liwcze Farm and covered 550ha (1360ac), growing Oil Seed Rape, Sugar Beet, Wheat, Maize and Barley. Yield for all crops except barley have been good this year and are well above the statistical average for the country, though it has to be noted that they would be considered average for farmers that employ precision farming techniques. After speaking to the farm manager, it was clear that he is a strong advocate of precision farming as well as modern agronomics.
The second farm I visited, ”RSP Hopkie”, I found rather interesting. It was started in 1975 by 10 farmers who farmed 100ha (247ac) and now it is 1000ha (2470ac), employing several people in the area. It was also a very diverse farm, growing ‘normal’ small grains such as wheat and oil seed rape, but also onions and carrots. On top of this they also had a 100 cow dairy herd. Whilst they have been soil sampling for a number of years, 2010 was the first year they have used VRA. Early indications are positive and they are happy with the results and equipment so far.
One of the other farms I visited was somewhat larger than the previous ones – 2000ha (4940ac). Whilst they do not currently use VRA, they have certainly benefitted from soil sampling. Most of the farm has very high K levels and therefore none is applied, and even the P levels are medium to high. Mg levels were the main issue on this farm, but this is more expensive to correct and can only be done over a period of time. Another interesting fact about this farm was that it appeared to me to be unusual in the fact that they used min till for most of their crop establishment, rather than the traditional cultivation methods still used by a lot of farms. They also had a 450 head dairy herd, which was certainly very large for the area.
During the second day there, I visited farms closer to Warsaw that ranged from about 300ha to 1000ha (741-2470ac). Whilst each farm was different in its own right, there was one common thread between them all: growing potatoes under contract for Frito Lay. It was clear that Frito Lay is a large source of income for these farmers and a welcome one at that. But Frito Lay does have stringent quality standards, so these farmers have to produce a high quality commodity for them to be accepted. Overall I had a great time in Poland and I would like to thank all the farmers I visited for their time and patience in answering my questions.