From November 7 to 12 Horti-Consult International undertook a study trip to Azerbaijan, where several growers were visited. Below, a report of the trip.
The journey began on Sunday morning with a visit to the vegetable market Meyvali among other things. It is very busy there and when we want to take a picture it is made clear that this is not the intention. Fruit and vegetables are beautifully presented. It is particularly remarkable that midi cucumbers are offered in 10 kg plastic bags. Everything is laid out straight and presented very neatly. Tomatoes are of good quality and all presented nicely. Truss tomatoes are almost nonexistent. Pink tomatoes, however, are widely offered.Visiting growers
On Monday we visited the growers although it's a holiday for the Azerbaijanis. The day of the national flag. After 30 minutes of driving, we see a totally different world. Here no influence of petrodollars anymore, just poor people with humble cottages.
The first company visited is propagator Mazahir. Here, every year 15 million outdoor plants and 20 million greenhouse plants are grown in two hectares of greenhouses. Currently there is a crisis, because there is little export to RussiaCucumber plants
Tomatoes are very cheap now, at $1 per kg. Five years ago around this time this was still 5 dollars per kg. This is because the ruble was devalued by 35 percent. Only small plants are grown. There’s a pad and fan system so they were able to deliver a beautiful plant in the summer. A cucumber plant now costs 12 cents (150 on tray), 16 cent (96 on tray), or 8 cents (216 on tray). The plants are now being delivered at 30 days.
The plants are treated with copper weekly. The major problem in Azerbaijan is whitefly. The plant grower is doing everything to keep them out with screens and by keeping everything closed. TYLCV or yellow leaf curl virus is now also a major problem, so many choose resistant varieties.
Everything is germinated in the germ. Tomatoes 3 days at 25 degrees Celsius. Cabbages at 18 degrees. The plant grower is also interested in installing lighting. He has questions: if Son-T or LED is best. We still expect a better return from Son-T because LED is still too expensive.The tomato plants are now 31 daysReturn
They are very interested in how it is possible that the growers only achieve 25-30 kg per m2 here while in the Netherlands we realize 60 to 90 kg per m2. The hot summer is a big problem to achieve a high annual production, but also the short day length. The high night temperatures are also a problem. So they would have to build greenhouses in elevated areas to allow for summer production. Humidification does not work here because the humidity is too high in the summer.
The following company is a tomato grower of 40,000 m2: Kurdahani Mehemmedi. There is a trial of Rijk Zwaan with the new variety 72-720 (internal red). The variety stands out in terms of color and taste. This is found to be very important. The production is also a little higher. There is Tuta absoluta in the greenhouse, as well as TYLCV in the crop. The crop is weak, but the quality is very nice. The greenhouse has not been screened. Ridomil may be applied broadly. Nothing is pruned. The new varieties should be TYLCV and Downey mildew resistant. There is really too little heating and there is also no CO2 output.
Grow group: beef steak tomatoes
On Tuesday, after a drive of an hour over beautiful highways past a dirt road through the oil fields, we arrive at the following address: Grow group from Azerbaijan. We’re given a tour by Jamal. For beefsteak tomato they’ve grown Mahitos RZ, Endeavour RZ.Beautifully packaged beefsteak tomatoes
This last year they planted in January and the last harvest was in July. Production 25 kg. With the current autumn crop they hope to realize 10 kg. Because of the hot weather the end quality hasn’t been good. The company started in 2011. Now they have 6.3 ha under plastic film with high-tech.
April and May are the best months for sales. At present the tomatoes are around 1 euro per kg. This is not enough, they should now be 1.40 per kg. The average selling price for the year is 1 euro per kg. Smaller tomatoes generate 3 euros per kg. These have been harvested separately at about 10-20 grams.Variety trials
All Rijk Zwaan variety trials are here. All plants have been too heavily sprayed with growth inhibitor. Brioso is also being tested and is looking good. For whitefly Nesidicoris is being used. Sometimes they eat in the head of the plant. Especially when it gets warmer. Interplanting takes place in December. The average light per day is 400 Joules in December and 600 Joules in January. This is not enough to interplant in that time.Azesun Green Tech
Then a visit to Azesun Green Tech follows, the largest company in Azerbaijan: 30 hectares of greenhouses of which 2 ha is a plant nursery. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers and lettuce are grown. The biggest problems are too high B and Na levels. They use osmosis systems and large sand filters for this, but it remains a problem. The water is disinfected with UV. The major climatic variations are also seen as a problem. They also see much future in the different types of herbs and types of lettuce on water.
Last year they had big problems in May with tip rot in the tomatoes. This cost a lot of production. The main cause are the high night temperatures in these months. They want to learn grafting in their own nursery. It is new to them, so there is still some hesitation. But especially if they want to have year-round cultivation, they will have to take this step.The highest quality truss tomatoes in Azerbaijan
Here all substrate used is coconut. The insects are often successfully controlled organically. For whitefly Nesidicorus is now used so there are no more problems with whitefly. This beast does cause a lot of damage to the plants.
For lettuce cultivation they have bought a pad-fan system, a humidification system and a screen. This is to make lettuce cultivation possible in the summer. They also see much future in the different types of herbs and types of lettuce on water.
After four days of rain and very dark weather, on Wednesday we see the sun for the first time in Azerbaijan. The first address we visit is Suleiman. This plant breeder and grower grows cucumber and tomato plants and flowers. He wants to stop with flowers because there is no market for it anymore, because the government orders fewer flowers due to the low oil prices.The self-invented ventilation system in Suleiman’s greenhouse
After a long drive over bad roads we reach Suleiman’s growing company. We find unheated tomatoes. To continue this long without heating gives too many problems. Especially Cladosporium causes a lot of problems. Now he's going to install heating pipes. After a new build the company will total 7 ha. Asera Azerbaijan is the builder of the new 5 ha. This greenhouse with film is an investment of 70 euros per m2 including a heating and watering system. Gas is now 7 cents per m3. He will also be growing in the ground. He is afraid to grow on substrate because there is too little knowledge of the nutrition in Azerbaijan.Ecoprod: year-round tomatoes
The next visit is to Ecoprod. This company features a year-round production of tomatoes. Planting was done in February and in early October the head was removed.
Production up to now has been 35 kg per m2. The variety is Torrero Monsanto. It is a high-tech plastic greenhouse. To get through the summer ReduSol was put on the deck. Reduclean has been used to get the chalk off.
2.5 plants have been planted Per m2. In the spring pruning was always done on 3 and in the summer on 2 tomatoes per truss. In autumn again on 3. There's still about 5 kg per m2 so that the total production comes to 40 kg. The biggest problems are spider mites, whitefly and mildew. There has also been a lot of tip rot in the summer. The dripping water was 35 C in the summer. There is a misting system present. The greenhouse has been completely screened. The crop is looking good. Grafting would certainly be an improvement. The new variety Taymyr RZ has served well and has a very nice quality.
Lettuce for McDonald's
Next A-Agro was visited: one of the largest lettuce growers of the Caucasus, which also delivers lettuce to McDonald's. At the company there’s also a lot of packing being done. They grow 20% of the lettuce consumed in Azerbaijan. The rest is mostly imported. In winter there are many problems with diseases. The lettuce rots particularly in the month of November. The plants need to be examined to find out the cause. The growing is done on clay, although some sandier soil has been poured on it from 150 km away. This soil is applied to make the ground more permeable.Conclusion
It has been a wonderful trip and we have had a good look at the potential and problems of Azerbaijan. Because of the dark winter it is almost impossible to have year-round cultivation, which starts in August and ends in June or July. In addition, it is almost impossible to get the crop through the hot summer without many problems. In addition, the summer rates are low. The best opportunity seems to us to pursue year-round production by lighting during the winter. This applies to all fruit and vegetables.
Perhaps a lighting installation of 9000 lux will be sufficient because the light intensity is higher than in the Netherlands. If lighting is not done, then there should be more pruning in autumn to have strength left in the winter.
We think it should be possible to cultivate an exclusive product for the wealthier public in Azerbaijan. This is an opportunity currently being missed.
We would like to sincerely thank Sergei Vasylevskyy and Natig Fataliyev of Rijk Zwaan, but also the company Rijk Zwaan/Arnold Reijers for arranging such an informative and educational program for us.
For more information:
Gilbert HeijensHorti-Consult Internationalinfo@horti-consult.nlwww.horti-consult.nl