Home » Issue 27-2023 » Farm report » Well thought out: András Kovács, HU

Well thought out

András Kovács' farm is located in one of the most beautiful regions of Hungary: in the densely wooded county of Veszprém, more precisely in Takácsi in the district of Pápai. You can hear hardly any traffic noise from the recently opened M83 motorway that connects the cities Győr and Pápa. On the fields of Agro-Zea, however, there is intense activity.

Agro-Zea Ltd. was established in 1993 with 4 ha of land that András Kovács had received as part of the restitution process. At that time, the company was also involved in timber processing in addition to farming. However, he gave up this branch of business in 2002. Since then, the focus has been entirely on farming. Today, they cultivate 500 ha of owned and leased land, plus 2,000 hectares of contract work. In the sectors tillage, fertiliser application and plant protection, the company acts as a full-service provider, with 50 to 60 % of the seeding work carried out by the company. The family-run farm also buys and sells cereals, trades in fertilisers and operates a drying plant.
"We grow conventional crops: maize, soybeans, winter wheat, winter barley and triticale. Last year, we stopped growing rapeseed because, unfortunately, it wasn't profitable for us," agricultural engineer András Kovács admits. "It was the first time in twelve years that we didn't seed rapeseed in autumn."
80 % of the fields are brown earth soils that mainly consist of sandy loam. With 10 to 15%, the clay share is relatively low. It is relatively easy-to-cultivate, but well-drained loose rock. Compared to the rest of the country, rainfall is favourable. This year, there was no reason to complain for more than 1,000 mm of rain fell from 1st of January to late autumn – which is also rare even for this region. The average rainfall normally ranges between 600 and 700 mm. Last year’s drought was an exception.

“We constantly adapt to these conditions. Our cultivation strategy has changed significantly in the past years. In the early 1990s, direct seeding was not yet widespread, so we ploughed. But in the 2010th we noticed that despite sufficient rainfall and good hybrid and other seed varieties we were not able to exceed a certain yield level. In fact, the average yield even declined, and we did not know why. So we tried a change in direction. Even today, we haven’t completely given up ploughing but on the current 500 ha the ploughed area amounts to less than 20% instead of 100% as before. On these 80 to 100 ha, we apply organic fertiliser. And I have not yet found a solution to incorporate it in another way.”
Another part of the new strategy was to mix the straw residues that are supposed to provide nutrients into the soil as evenly and homogeneously as possible - with as few passes as possible. The farm manager informed himself about the products of several German manufacturers and then decided in favour of HORSCH as the machines optimally met their requirements.
In 2016, the farm bought a HORSCH Leeb 5 LT from AXIÁL Kft., the HORSCH sales partner in Hungary. András Kovács had seen the sprayer for the first time at the Agrárexpo in Pápai and immediately had been impressed by the performance and the stable frame of the machine. The previous sprayer of the farm did no longer meet the increased requirements, and given the more and more frequent extreme weather conditions, he decided to invest in a new sprayer. The decision to buy a Leeb 5 LT was quickly taken. With regard to crop care technology, he attached major importance to an efficient machine that could treat all of his crops in only one single day. No problem for the LT. Maize was the only crop for which this plan did not work this year. Because of the adverse weather, the treatment took two days.

“In the first year, we sprayed 6,000 ha. That was a huge performance leap compared to our previous technology. With our old sprayer, we could only spray 2,500 to 3,000 ha per year. The following year, we bought a HORSCH single grain seed drill Maestro 8 CC within the scope of a government subsidy program. Maize still is our main crop, and we were looking for a seed drill that could accomplish high operational speeds and had enough capacity to apply solid fertiliser and starter fertiliser in one pass. The combination of these factors made us go for the HORSCH Maestro 8 CC. This was six years ago, and we seed about 3,000 ha with this machine. But apart from replacing the wear parts, we did not have to invest any money in the machine. We are sure that we are going to work with this 8-row seed drill for quite a long time. The Maestro is equipped with the AutoForce system. Due to the adaption of the coulter pressure, we can always place the seed precisely at the same depth. In my opinion, the percentage of the seed that starts to germinate within 24 h in a certain area is even more important than the spacing of the seed. For maize that germinates poorly or irregularly is its own competitor. This mainly depends on the seed depth, the even seedbed and the humidity of the soil.”
Shortly afterwards, the farm bought a HORSCH cultivator Terrano 4 MT – an MT because due to the front disc row the soil is already mixed in front of the tines. A lot of stubble residues that remain in the field after the maize seeding have to be incorporated so that seeding is not impeded and also to prevent a fusarium infection in the next spring. Then we use a compact disc harrow HORSCH Joker 6 HD. Cultivating the spring stubbles makes up 30 to 40% of its work. The remaining 60 %, it is used for the cultivation of maize stubbles. This is the reason why András Kovács wanted a larger disc diameter and a heavier machine. And the Joker HD really does a good job.
The relationship between the farm, AXIÁL and HORSCH is very good. So good that in 2021 Zsolt Varga, the regional representative of AXIÁL, and Zoltán Szász, the HORSCH sales manager for this region, provided Agro-Zea GmbH with a pre-series HORSCH Pronto 6 DC seed drill for test purposes. The farm was to seed several 1,000 ha per year with this machine. “It was our first Pronto seed drill, and we are thrilled”, András Kovács says.

The test machine is a seed drill with a pressurised hopper with a divided seed hopper that can apply two seed varieties simultaneously. “The placement depth is maintained very precisely, and the machine is extremely reliable.”
The old HORSCH Leeb LT sprayer had already sprayed 30,000 ha when a government subsidy program for new sprayers was initiated. So the farm bought a new Leeb sprayer. Due to the precision spraying system, it is considerably less prone to clogging and is less sensitive to different deposits in the foliar fertilisers. Above all, it can apply differentiated spraying quantities per section. “With the first sprayer that now was replaced, the HORSCH brand has established itself on our farm. This year will be the first season for the new sprayer. Instead of 6,000 ha, we are now farming 8,000 ha per year. The sprayer can be filled very quickly, and the cleaning of the tank is excellent. Of course, the HORSCH Leeb sprayer also was an excellent choice with regard to the stability of the frame. In this respect, HORSCH is simply outstanding. We can spray an area of 200 to 220 ha per day with this machine. Within the scope of the same subsidy program, we also bought the Terrano and the Pronto we already mentioned above.”
“If we buy a machine, it always is a very deliberate decision. We test it. If possible, I drive the machines myself. We always calculate the return on investment of the machine we want to buy. As the saying goes: If a machine does not pay off within five years, you should not buy it. With our own land and the land we farm on a contract basis, we can easily manage this in five years. Of course, this is not necessarily true for a year like the last one when the prices for diesel, spare parts etc soared. But you can still say that on average a machine on our farms pays off after five years. Of course, this does not mean that we always buy a new machine after these five years. For if you regularly change the spare parts for example at the Terrano or at the Joker and if the frame is as solid as it is on a HORSCH machine, there is no need to replace the machine. The frames do not break – at least not those of a HORSCH machine”, he adds.

András Kovács always keeps an eye on the price at which he bought the machine, on how long the machine has already been working on the farm, if you can replace or renew it with spare parts and if the machine can continue to work without the quality of work suffering. Wear parts are ordered in advance. For in case of a breakdown everything has to be ready to hand to make sure that the downtime of the machine is as low as possible. Moreover, the value of the machine makes a big difference. Due to the rising inflation, the good construction and the careful maintenance, András Kovács was able to sell the old HORSCH sprayer for two thirds of its original purchasing price.
“In the scope of the subsidy program, we bought a rather large machine package, and we are planning to keep the machines up-to-date for the next one to two years. I think, at the moment, we have all the machines we need for our farm with five employees. However, our family business also has a horticultural branch including the cultivation of melons, maize and cherries which is mainly run by my brothers and my brother-in-law. We help each other wherever we can. Now we have to expand the infrastructure, and we are building a cold store on our premises, a handling and storage hall for fruit with offices and staff facilities. At some point, we are also going to replace the seed drill. And we are planning to invest in a HORSCH seed drill for row crops”, András Kovács summarises his plans for the future.