Ground Cover North : Ground Cover 063 August 2006 - North
Emerging rivals face a catch-up challenge Dr Brettell says his overall impression is that the region is certainly developing quickly, but continues to face significant infrastructure challenges following independence from the former Soviet Union. “There is a contrast between smaller mountainous republics such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, which have a relatively small proportion of total land area under cultivation, and Kazakhstan to the north, which has 12 million hectares under cultivation – predominantly wheat.” Dr Brettell says Kazakhstan has relative political stability, abundant natural resources (including oil) and is experiencing a rapid pace of economic development. “It has approaching 10 million hectares of spring wheat under production in the north, and a further one million hectares (mainly winter wheat) in the south. The dryland areas in the north are characterised by low inputs and low yields, averaging around one tonne per hectare, while much higher yields (more than 5t/ha) are being achieved under irrigation in the south.” Dr Brettell says the most significant foliar pathogens in the region are rust (leaf rust and yellow rust), tan spot and septoria (Septoria nodorum in the north and S. tritici further south). Durum wheat is planted on no more than 100,000 hectares, and probably much less. He says that of Kazakhstan’s production of 12 to 14 million tonnes, about five to seven million tonnes are available for export. In common with Australia, the production in Kazakhstan depends on adequate rainfall, which in many areas averages less than 250 millimetres a year. However, the introduction of new varieties and new practices, including low-tillage in dryland areas and raised beds in irrigated areas, means Kazakhstan’s grains industry is expecting a steady increase in its potential to produce large export tonnages. The stumbling block is the slow rate of adoption of new varieties and technologies, and whether or not transport constraints can be addressed. Dr Brettell says that while basic-quality Central Asian wheat will increasingly enter markets in Europe, the Middle-East and Iran, it may not be a major factor in the high-quality markets in East Asia. He also found that spring wheat produced in Kazakhstan is predominantly with varieties that have high dough strength and low extensibility, which means it is not a strong competitor for American wheats such as DNS (Dark Northern Spring). He says new germplasm with enhanced quality is being introduced into the region from centres such as CIMMYT, but it may be 10 years or more before this has an impact on export markets. So far, adoption levels for new varieties are low, with the majority of production coming from varieties released more than 10 years ago. Dr Brettell says a significant area of northern Kazakhstan is actually still planted to the variety Saratovskaya-29, which was released in 1957. Similarly, only one of the 20 main barley varieties reaches malting quality, and there is insufficient malting barley production in Kazakhstan to meet domestic demand. He found that growers are interested in new farming practices, such as minimum-tillage and introduction of new rotations, but appear cautious about making actual changes to their established farming systems. The other constraint faced by the region’s export ambitions is transport. In the land-locked country, transport has to be by road or rail. Rail appears to be the preferred means, using specially constructed containers, and there are rail links through to Europe. Dr Brettell says that Kazakhstan is reported to be investing in a grain export facility in one of the Baltic countries, which would give it a northern European port. Kazakhstan also has a long border with China, but the two countries have different rail gauges and are also separated by major mountain ranges. He says these constraints make it unlikely that Kazakhstan will be in a position to challenge Australia’s presence in markets like China for at least a decade or more. More information: Dr Richard Brettell, 02 6272 5525 International GROUND COVER AUGUST 2006 20 www.dunstanfarmers.com.au AWARD WINNING COMPANY Grain Growers and Contractors Field and Chaser Bins Manufactures of the well known Dunstan Farmers Mobile Field and Chaser Bins • Australia-wide delivery • Quality • Reliability • Maintain value • Back-up service • Investment in the future • Many optional extras available • Sizes to suit small to larger operators Proudly AUSTRALIAN 9432 Murray Valley Hwy, Kerang VIC 3579 Ph: (03) 5452 1488 AH: Arthur Turner on: 0429 608 778 Run-down infrastructure and low uptake of modern varieties is slowing the capacity of grains industries in the former Soviet Union to have a significant influence on world markets. Former Soviet republics have great potential for grain production, but infrastructure and low uptake of new varieties may keep them out of premium world markets for some time PHOTO: BRAD COLLIS BY BRAD COLLIS n At first glance, Kazakhstan typifies the emerging competition posed by Central Asian grain producers to established exporting countries like Australia. Its 12 million-hectare grainbelt is comparable with Australia’s and its wheat production is based on a semi-arid, low- inputs regime. It also has ambitions to be a major player on world markets and is well-positioned geographically to achieve this. Where Kazakhstan and other similar former Soviet republics fall down is infrastructure and varieties – and in some ways they can be seen as examples of where the Australian industry would be today if not for its long-running commitment to R&D. Dr Richard Brettell gained a rare insight into the efforts of former Soviet republics to join the global grain trade when he visited Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in June. Dr Brettell was one of five Australians at the 2nd Central Asian Cereals Conference held in Cholpon-Ata in Kyrgyzstan. The program covered cereal breeding, crop protection, grain quality, conservation tillage, grain quality and genetic resources. He also visited experimental stations and sites in different environments in the region.
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Ground Cover 064 September-October 2006 - North