Interview by oleh maslov

During a seminar on modern agricultural technologies from Yuri Drobiazko, team managed to talk with the director of the Ukrainian Analytical Laboratory “Agrotest” Oleg Maslov on the effectiveness of agrochemical analysis, “recipes” for fertilization and the future of agriculture with a scientific approach. Oleg, how accurate is agriculture in Ukraine?

Oleg Maslov: Recently, the question of accurate farming worries our minds more often. But we need to clearly understand that accurate farming requires the performance of many functions and high adaptability. Some Ukrainian farmers are gradually moving to this technology. Of course, we are still far from America and Germany in this respect. For example, the Germans are very demanding about this issue. They conduct analyzes for almost every hectare! We, as a laboratory, it is very interesting! Is there a difference between conventional soil analysis and analysis for precision farming?

Oleg Maslov: Precise farming involves sampling with reference to GPS coordinates using special equipment. After sampling, with the fixation of data on the field by points, samples are sent to the laboratory for analysis. After carrying out the research, we visualize the results and draw up the field maps. And most importantly – I give recommendations on the exact introduction of the necessary nutrients, according to the coordinates of each selected sample. It should be emphasized that for each analysis and indicator a separate map is compiled.

In the case of precise farming, one can not conduct exactly the same steps, but others approximately. If a person has already “entered” accurate agriculture, then he must gain strength and patience (and, of course, finance!) And, accordingly, perform everything accurately: precise sampling, accurate fixation of selected points, accurate agrochemical analysis, accurate mapping and making recommendations for precise introduction. The principal difference between precise farming is that the area of ​​a site for one sample is from 1 to 10 hectares. Of course, the smaller the area, the more accurate the data will be. In addition, in accurate farming, it is not enough just to get a visual picture, but to be able to use the figures that make up it! Since the card is, I repeat, only the visualization of figures. It is by numbers that recommendations are made on the precise application of mineral fertilizers, which is the goal of accurate farming! What tests are needed for accurate farming performed by your laboratory?

Oleg Maslov: There is no restriction in exact agriculture. You can conduct an analysis of each sample both in several parameters and in complex in all parameters. Everything depends on the economic component. Laboratory “Agrotest” offers customers three packages for precision farming. The “Mini” package, the simplest package, includes the determination of soil acidity, organic matter, salinity, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium content. The “Basic” package, in addition to the above parameters, also includes the determination of calcium, magnesium, sodium, and capacity of the Cation Exchange (ECO). The “Complete” package, an expanded package, includes the determination of the available forms of trace elements: sulfur, zinc, manganese, copper and iron. Separately, at the request of the client, the texture (mechanical composition), boron and molybdenum can be determined. What kind of analysis technology do you use in the laboratory “Agrotest”?

Oleg Maslov: We use American technology. Our specialists regularly undergo training at one of the leading agrochemical laboratories Ward-lab (Kearney, Nebraska, USA). I also want to note that we are participants of the international program for the control of agrochemical analysis of soils and plants – the ALP Program (Agricultural Laboratory Proficiency Program) from the American company CTS (Collaborative Testing Services, Inc.). Thus, we are included in the system of international verification of results obtained in our laboratory! We are very proud of this achievement! I would also like to note that this year the Analytical Laboratory “Agrotest” will participate in the International Symposium on Soil and Plant Analysis (ISSPA 2017), which will be held in May this year in Nanjing, China. This is the most important and most interesting international symposium devoted to the analysis of soils and plants! After all, it is visited by agrochemists and scientists with a world name from many countries of the world with a huge theoretical and practical experience! For us this symposium is an opportunity to get information about the latest innovations and trends in agrochemical analysis directly from the first hand, as well as confirmation of the membership of the Agrotest Analytical Laboratory in the world agrochemical community! Also at this symposium, our laboratory will be presented with a report on the fertility of soils of Ukraine, based on data from the Agrotest Laboratory, accumulated over 12 years. Do you prescribe specific drugs in your recommendations?

Oleg Maslov: No, we do not give instructions to introduce a specific drug. We offer a recipe, which indicates which nutrient to be added and how much (in the active substance). We can recommend in what form (in which fertilizer) and when it is best to introduce one or another element (depending on the results of soil analysis). If the laboratory in the recommendations indicates their own branded drugs – this indicates the incompetence of the laboratory. I believe that the laboratory should be absolutely independent! Is there a lot of competition in Ukraine in the field of agrochemical analysis for precision farming?

Oleg Maslov: I will say this: we are the only ones who conduct soil analysis of this level directly in Ukraine! In our country there are several companies that deal exclusively with the selection of soil samples. Then they send these samples either to the US, or to Germany, or somewhere else. Laboratory tests are already conducted there and then the results are sent back to Ukraine. Often this is a rather lengthy process (about 20-30 days). Our laboratory conducts absolutely the same studies in 3-5 days. This year we have a new department in our laboratory – Agrotest-Precision, which provides a full range of services for precision farming, including sampling, mapping, issuing recommendations for precise application, tracking all phases, learning the use of the program. In addition, we adapted the software that is used in the laboratory to easily and quickly convert all the necessary data and research results into files compatible with any programs for precision farming. And this gives us the opportunity to operate a large array of data in the shortest possible time and with minimal human intervention. Who is more among your customers – farmers or large farmers?

Oleg Maslov: We work with large companies and agroholdings, as well as with farmers. Year after year, after analyzing the fields of these companies, their history is created. Agronomists, who monitor the condition of their soil and regularly carry out its analysis, can monitor the balance of nutrients in the soil, the dynamics of changes in the main parameters. Therefore, every year the number of our customers is growing. Are you currently developing new soil analysis programs? Oleg Maslov: At this stage, the main direction for us is accurate farming. We implement and develop the program, which I mentioned above (Agrotest-Precision) for analyzing a large number of samples with subsequent visualization of data using maps and recommendations for making. In addition, over the past 4 years we have been carrying out plant mass analysis (plant analysis). If there is obvious oppression of plants associated with nutrition, we are looking for the cause. The analysis of plants helps to see and understand such problems and accordingly to prevent them in the future. Thank you for an interesting conversation!

Katerina Nikonchuk,

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