Contract sugar beet farming
In the course of the contract business, AGRANA has for many years paid attention to the advisory support of agricultural producers. The knowledge behind this advice stems from many years of experience and extensive field trials.
Performing the Farm Sustainability Assessments of the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative
In the Sugar segment, the contract beet suppliers in all five beet production countries have been grouped into so-called Farm Management Groups (FMGs). In 2017, these groups’ sustainability performance had been externally audited in accordance with FSA requirements for the first time, and the re-verification audits took place in 2020. In the groups in Austria and the Czech Republic, 100% of the farms achieved at least FSA Silver status.
In Romania, Slovakia and Hungary, the re-verification audits planned for 2020 could only be finalised in 2021 due to travel and contact restrictions prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As in the initial audit in 2017, all Slovak farms achieved at least FSA Silver status. The Farm Management Group in Hungary successfully improved its results compared to the first audit, so that here too, all growers obtained at least FSA Silver standing. Romania also showed an improvement in audit results, with 60% of farms achieving an FSA Silver rating, although the target of 100% FSA Silver was not attained.
Building awareness of good agricultural practice
Awareness-building activities in 2022|23 remained limited to events held in small groups and to virtual offerings under the “AGRANA4You” advisory programme. For example, subject-specific webinars were offered again for beet growers, focusing on the topics of planting, seed, and crop protection for the 2022 season.
A physical field day was conducted in the Tulln, Austria, catchment area at the end of August 2022, in compliance with all COVID-19 prevention measures; the key subjects in focus were crop varieties, crop protection and tillage. Around 500 farmers were able to learn more about current topics related to sugar beet production, soil cultivation and hoeing technology. The focus was on equipment demonstrations for tasks ranging from primary tillage all the way to planting catch-crops. AGRANA experts provided information on electro-ultrafiltration (EUF) soil testing, automated soil sampling and the evaluation of fertiliser recommendations. The contracting for 2023 beet production was offered both online and in physical meetings.
Biodiversity in sugar beet cultivation
In 2021, about 3,600 hectares were greened in Austria with catch-crop mixes from Österreichische Rübensamenzucht GmbH, a not-for-profit subsidiary of AGRANA Zucker GmbH that provides farmers with GMO-free seed, largely from its own in-house propagation. The catch-crops loosen the soil structure, mobilise nutrients, activate soil fauna and improve field biodiversity. In addition, flowered areas of annuals and perennials were established; together, the flowering fields provide ideal forage for wild animals, offer honey plants for bees, and add to the beauty of the landscape.