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Arnold Czech - Profit from the expert's knowledge

Interview by Erminia Ciarleglio, DLG

Arnold Czech from Poland is DLG member since 2005 and his particular challenge is to improve the cultivation of potatoes. Therefore he runs experimental plots in cooperation with Wroclaw University. What he appreciates about his DLG membership is the opportunity to exchange knowledge with professional colleagues. He also enjoys attending DLG events to get informed.

Mr Czech, please introduce your farm.

I run a farm of about 700 ha (wheat, rape, sugar beet, potatoes, onions, peas). The main focus is potato and vegetable cultivation. Due to the fact that I farm on relatively permeable soil, all intensive crops are under irrigation. Potatoes and onions are mainly stored. Our storage capacity is about 8,000 tons.

A special challenge in potato growing is the choice of varieties with regard to marketing. For this reason, I have set up a two-year project in cooperation with the Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences, which provides for field tests with different varieties in combination with various forms of fertilisation and dosages.

What are the challenges for successful cultivation and safe marketing with regard to the choice of potato varieties?

The potato industry would prefer to be supplied with ideal tubers throughout the whole year. The tubers should be as undamaged as possible, have a high dry weight or dry matter and contain few acrylic amides. Unfortunately, potato breeding has not yet produced a variety that always produces the same tubers on different soils and in different weather conditions. And all this with yields that satisfy the farmer.

Added to this are the difficulties and problems of cultivation - tuber set, diseases (especially Alternaria, Plague and Potato blight), damage during uprooting, stolons, storage, increasing sugar content, rotting in storage and germination (especially with the loss / failure of the active ingredient Chloroprofam).

Can you already show results regarding the field tests?

So far I only have some data, e.g. yield, number of tubers in 10 kilograms, sugar content, starch content. The laboratory tests on the leaves and tubers have not yet been completed. At this point it is too early to make a statement. However, there is a tendency that the fertilisation has less influence on the yield as well as on the already measured parameters. Also the difference between the varieties is clearly visible.

Are the more frequent dry phases of the climate noticeable in Poland?

Farmers are never satisfied, so I can't remember optimal conditions. In recent decades, one must honestly admit, there have been great opportunities for further development in Polish agriculture. This was due to the privatisation of state farms, the migration of the next generation in the family/private farms (migration meaning emigration of the young generation to the West, predominantly Germany, the Netherlands, England) as well as the settlement of young people in the big cities. As a result, the parental farms had no successors.

Poland has predominantly medium and weak soils. They often suffer from spring-summer drought and the problem is getting worse. That is why many farmers in Poland have invested in special irrigation systems in recent decades. I myself have built several wells and several drum irrigation systems in the last 20 years, as well as three central sprinkler systems (pivot systems), so that I am able to irrigate the entire cultivated area of vegetables, potatoes and sugar beet in order to ensure yield and quality. This development will be continued in the coming years.

Vegetable production plays an important role in Polish agriculture. Can you confirm this statement?

Yes, Poland exports a lot of vegetables. Agriculture has changed drastically in the last 10 years. Before the fall of communism (1989) there were a number of large, state-owned vegetable producers and a large number of small or very small vegetable growers who sold their production through local markets. After the fall of communism, the state vegetable producers disappeared from the market and the small private growers grew permanently.

After Poland's accession to the EU and especially after the introduction of the EU aid programme to support vegetable producers, the vegetable producer groups developed rapidly, e.g. if someone produced 2 ha of vegetables, the vegetable area had increased tenfold or even twentyfold in a few years. This led to the emergence of large producers who mainly supply the trade chains and of course also export a lot. The local market is still supplied by the smaller producers, some of whom have switched to organic. The large vegetable growers are equipped with the best western technology, have preparation, packaging possibilities and large storage capabilities.

Do you visit our DLG fairs, e.g. PotatoEurope? How can you benefit from your long-term DLG membership?

Yes, I attend many events, e.g. Potato Days, Potato Europe (where I was on the advisory board for some time), Field Days, Agritechnica, Winter Conference.

The training courses offered by the DLG are very helpful because they contain practical knowledge in addition to theoretical knowledge. I also took part in several trainings of the Young DLG (years ago).

I also benefit a lot from the experiences of other farmers and from the constant exchange with different DLG members that I have met over the years.