Sunday, July 11, 2010 | Low-till farming curbs drought hit to Kazakh wheat | Low-till farming curbs drought hit to Kazakh wheat

16:30 UK, 9th July 2010, by
Low-till farming curbs drought hit to Kazakh wheat

Drought-struck wheat farmers in Kazakhstan's farmers may be facing an even greater downturn if it were not for their uptake of low-till practices, US officials have signalled, slashing their crop hopes by 17%.

The US Department of Agriculture, in its benchmark monthly report on world crops, sliced its estimate for Kazakhstan's wheat crop by 3.0m tonnes to 13.0m tonnes, blaming a "withering" drought.

"Precipitation for the current growing season is the lowest in the past 10 years," the briefing said, adding that satellite imagery showed the crop in the worst condition in at least a decade.

However, the USDA also noted the growth in adoption of the so-called low till technology which, by minimising soil disturbance, limits the opportunity for moisture loss.

"Grain producers maintain that moisture-saving technology reduces yield loss in the event of drought and reduces the need for clean fallow in the crop rotation," the report said.

Low till techniques, whose use has been encouraged by the expansion of large farm operating companies in Kazakhstan, was practiced on 10.3m hectares this year, twice as much as in 2007, and much in wheat, of which 14.7m hectares was sown.

'Severe and persistent drought'

The report also said that Russia's crop was in the worst health for at least 10 years, thanks to severe drought.

"All of the major spring-wheat production districts, Siberia, Ural, and Volga, have been subject to severe and persistent drought," the USDA said, cutting its forecast for Russian wheat production by 4.5m tonnes to 53.0m tonnes.

Nonetheless, that remains a higher figure than estimated by Moscow-based analysis group SovEcon, which on Friday pegged the crop at 49m-51m tonnes, noting yields as low as 0.8 tonnes per hectare in the Volga valley.

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