Home » Issue 26-2023 » Farm report » Farm in Latvia relies on HORSCH: Eduards Šmits, LV

Farm in Latvia relies on HORSCH

Eduards Šmits actually studied economics. However, he decided against a career in the financial sector and has now been managing the Pīlādži farm for almost 30 years.

Currently, over 700 ha are cultivated on the arable farm. The main crops are wheat, rape, beans and peas. The soils at the site in the municipality of Lutrini in the Saldus district of western Latvia in the historic Courland region vary greatly - sand, clay, peat, sandy loam. Within one single field the soil can vary considerably, from peat to loam and with sand in the middle.

The beginnings of the farm

Eduards Šmits' parents started farming in the early 1990s. Unlike most farmers, they were only offered the land on a leasehold basis. There was no inherited land that could have been reclaimed after the country's independence. At that time, Eduards was still at school. Together with his three siblings, he had to help a lot on the farm. "I founded Pīlādži in 1996, shortly before I graduated from the Agricultural University of Latvia in Jelgava where I studied economics," Eduards Šmits remembers.
As at the beginning the farm was still too small to generate significant profits, Eduards still had another full-time job. "At that time, I called farming my "extreme hobby" because all my free time and money went into the development of the farm,'' the farmer says.
The turning point came when the farm grew and it became increasingly difficult to reconcile the full-time job and farming: "I had to decide what I wanted to do. Farming was not yet profitable at that time, so it was not easy. But I still decided in favour of the farm. So I have been a full-time farmer since 2005."

Experiences with field beans

Beans have been grown on the farm for quite some time. Eduards Šmits is proud of his experiences: “I already had beans in my rotation before they became a trend. So I have already learned some additional tricks. From an economic point of view, it may not be the top crop, but I like the agronomic effects. With regard to sowing, I noticed that given the drought in spring which limits development direct seed may be advantageous. Two years ago, we started to grow peas. They are easier to handle and do not require so much crop care. The harvest, however, can be more difficult as the peas lie flat on the ground after rain and storm in summer. The irregular germination, too, caused by drought in spring, makes harvesting more difficult. I hope that direct seed will help us in this respect, too.”
By now the two legumes bean and pea now make up one fifth of the rotation. One reason is to extend the harvest period. This year, only peas were sown to reduce the crop care costs.

First encounter with HORSCH

Most of the machines on the Pīlādži farm are from HORSCH. Eduards Šmits explains why this technology prevails on his field in the Courland: “I heard about HORSCH from German farmers who have farms in Latvia. In 2007, during a trade fair in Riga we configured a Sprinter with 6 m working width together with the regional HORSCH sales manager. At that time, I farmed 370 hectares, and the machine actually was a little bit oversized. But I still bought it as right from the start we relied on larger, wider and more effective machines to get our tasks done faster and more efficiently. One of my main reasons to buy the Sprinter were the coulters which were to provide the work quality required for our varying soils. With the Sprinter we successfully sowed cereals and rape until 2015. Though it did not always work perfectly“, Eduards Šmits comments on his decision.

Focus for rapeseed, Pronto for cereals

In 2011, the farm bought a HORSCH DuoDrill to be mounted on the Joker CT for sowing rape. The plan was to sow rapeseed during tillage.
"But this method was not very precise. So I looked for another solution and found it with the Focus TD. Since 2017, I have been using the Focus 4 TD for sowing rape. In spring, it is also used to sow legumes."

In the farmer’s opinion the Focus is the optimum solution for rape, even if there sometimes are problems with straw. The reasons, however, rather are the cutting height and the chaffing quality. Although the Focus has been designed for StripTill without tillage, minimum tillage might be necessary in case of lodged grain. “In our first year with the Focus we were not aware of the influence of the chaffing and distribution quality of the straw. You have to keep an eye on that, otherwise the machine can get clogged. In 2018, there were little straw residues on the field. And the Focus worked perfectly“, the farmer confirms.
Eduards Šmits equipped his Focus with self-made cutting discs in the front to see if this might be an option for his fields if conditions were not optimum. An option that HORSCH found interesting, too, and developed further for the Focus. The tests are already in full swing.
In 2015, the farm bought a HORSCH Pronto to carry out sowing quickly and efficiently after tillage. Here, too, the well-proven principle – seedbed preparation, consolidation and exact sowing was absolutely convincing.

A sprayer to increase efficiency

A brand-new machine in the field of Eduards Šmits is the HORSCH Leeb 12 TD with a tank capacity of 12,000 l and 36 m boom width. “We prepare the spraying mixture on our premises. To optimize the workflow, we went for a large trailed sprayer. Again it might be a little large for our farm but it increases our efficiency and at the same time saves resources. We also want to apply liquid fertiliser with the sprayer. Thus, application is cheaper and more precise which also meets the increasing environmental requirements”, the farmer explains.

With HORSCH and without a plough

“We have been cultivating our fields without a plough for nine years – one of the reasons why they are so even. We sow rape with the StripTill method with the Focus TD. Before sowing cereals, we use the Terrano FX to work shallowly and intensively and then we sow with Pronto”, Eduards Šmits explains.

For the farmer, one of the main reasons for cultivation without a plough is the short window that in the Baltic States can be used for sowing after the harvest in spring. “Moreover, ploughing is very cost-intensive and time-consuming. Thus, not using a plough only has advantages for me. And the HORSCH machines have been designed exactly for this purpose. So it was very easy to take the decision for this kind of cultivation system“, the farmer argues.

Direct seeding with the Avatar

The HORSCH Avatar 6.16 SD is another new machine on the Pīlādži farm. Eduards Šmits explains what convinced him of the machine: “In spring 2021, I made a comparison of four seed drills on a loamy field. Among them the Avatar. The results were more or less the same, but the Avatar convinced me due to its easy operation and handling. Moreover, like for all the other HORSCH seed drills, the horsepower requirement is very low. I need less fuel and a smaller tractor is enough. The daily maintenance work, too, is carried out quickly – another time-saver. All this makes HORSCH stand out.”
With the new machine, the farmer wants to gather experiences with regard to sowing various crops with direct seed as well as after tillage. For the purchase of a 12 m Avatar has already been planned.

Liming

In the past years, the farm limed in a targeted way to improver fertility and the soil structure. About 12 years ago, all fields were limed on principle. Now a little input is applied before beans and peas. And also the new fields get their share. “As the lime producer is located nearby in Sātiņi, I can save the transport costs. I noticed that after liming the yields and the soils structure are better“, Eduards Šmits confirms.

Future: Optimisation

And what is planned for the future at Pīlādži? Definitely a further improvement of the tillage methods and a structural conversion of the fields. Neighbouring land will be bought, fields that are further away will be sold. This optimisation process already is in full swing. “The fields are in line with the performance of the machines to get the work done in the optimum time window and the optimum quality. If the fields get larger, we will need more powerful machines again”, Eduards Šmits summarises. Although he now spends less time on the tractor, he still tests every machine himself to be able to assess the handling and the concept behind it.
The improvements with regard to the tillage methods have already achieved the first positive results. Since the Pīlādži farm has been converting to minimum tillage, the organic matter has increased and earthworms can be seen more often. “Soil health improved considerably. The yields, however, remained constant. Last year, I even had to decrease the yield – because of the fertiliser prices. But this also reduces the risk of lodged grain“, the farmer tells us and continues: “In the future, we will head more towards minimum tillage and direct seed. The other methods will remain secondary or will be used additionally. With regard to technology, too, I see a trend towards direct seed and strip tillage. With direct seed less weed germinates, and it improves soil health. And it is in line with my philosophy: less interference with soil life, less CO2 emissions.”