Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profiles


 

Belarus

belarusflag.jpg (3051 bytes)

by
Henrik Witkowski


 


1. Introduction
2. Soils and Topography
3. Climate and Agro-ecological Zones
4. Ruminant Livestock Production Systems
5. The Pasture Resource
6. Opportunities for Improvement of Fodder Resources
7. Research and Development Organizations and Personnel
8. References
9. Contacts


 

1. INTRODUCTION

Belarus is nearly in the centre of Europe between 510 and 560 North and 230 and 320 East. It borders on Poland in the west (see Figure 1), Lithuania in the northwest, Latvia in the north, Russia in the northeast and Ukraine in the south. It extends 560 km from north to south and 650 km from west to east. The average altitude is 160 m and the highest point is 345 m (the Dzerhinskaya mountain in Minsk region). The lowest place, 80-90 m is the valley of the Neman river, in Grodno region. Administratively, the territorial division of the Republic of Belarus as of 01.01.2000 consists of the following regions: Brest, Vitebsk, Gomel, Grodno, Minsk city, Minsk and Mogiljov.

Belarusia became a nation in the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries; from 1569 it was a part of the Federal State - Rech Pospolitaya, in the Lyblin union; from the end of the eighteenth century Belarusian lands were under Russian control. After the Great October revolution of 1917 the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic was formed; after 1922 it became part of the USSR by decree.

The Belarusian SSR was one of the most dynamic economic regions of the USSR in terms of rates of national economic activity; in the early nineteen eighties the republic topped the average level of the national per capita income in the USSR by 10 percent. It was the most prominent republic in the USSR in terms of agricultural production with a high level of intensification. Possessing 1.7 percent of the agricultural acreage and 2.7 percent of arable land, the republic produced 5.7 percent of the gross agricultural production, including 6.0 percent of the cattle in 1986-1990. In the All-Union division of labour Belarusia specialized in meat, milk, flax and potato production which was 5.9, 6.9, 25.9, and 14.5 percent of the total volume of their production in the country. In 1986-1990 the republic, where 3.5 percent of the USSR population lived, provided the All-Union fund with meat and meat products - 12.6 percent, milk and dairy produce - 14.6 percent, potatoes - 28.5 percent.

The public sector played the main role in agricultural production: collective farms, state farms and inter-economic associations. In the eighties the situation changed. The break-up of the economic system, after the political break-up of the USSR, caused a great number of irreversible phenomena. The state of Belarus was formed on the seventeenth of June 1990, in which since June 1994 the economic reforms have been headed by the first president Alexander Lukashenko.

Land reform was carried out under the Land Code of the Republic of Belarus and Government Decree "About the Land Reform in the Republic", of February 18, 1991. The Republic’s Act "About the Ownership of Land" defines two forms of land ownership: state and private. Private ownership is limited, and includes only personal plots and "lachas". According to the referendum of 1996 large plots of land for farming, can not be privately owned. Land of collective farms, state farms and peasant farms, when transferred to private farmers, remains in state ownership. Large collective and state farms are the main commodity producers. The possibility for voluntary reform and choice of farming system is granted to collective and state farms. Creation of peasant farms is fulfilled according to the Act "About peasant farming". Members of a peasant farm have the right of freehold possession of plots no greater than 50 hectares in size, personal land included.

Figure 1. Location of Belarus

Agricultural pricing in Belarus is centrally controlled. State support of rural and agricultural production is in the form of soft credit, rural construction and restructuring of agricultural producers debts. Although Belarus does not have an official anti-privatisation policy, this is a characteristic of many branches of government and it has a selective, "creeping" character. The economic crisis of the agrarian complex is mostly because reform is based on a directive administration which aims to make sure that agricultural structures remain in centralized control.

Demography. In 2000 the population of the Republic was in excess of 10,000,000 (Table 1). According to the World Factbook the population reached 10,293,011 in July 2006 with a growth rate of -0.06%. The main feature of the recent demographic situation is an increasing loss of rural population; these catastrophic changes through migration of young people from the country to the town, causing a change in the demographic structure of the rural population and a higher death rate due to the worsening environmental situation after the Chernobyl accident. Historically Belarus is a multinational country; according to the 1999 census more than 130 nationalities and peoples live in the republic. Belarusians make up the bulk of the population - 81.2 percent, Russians 11.4 percent, Poles 3.9 percent, Ukrainians 2.4 percent, Jews 0.3 percent and other nationalities 0.8 percent. The average density of the population is 48 people per km2.

Table 1. Population growth in Belarus

Year

Population

Percent of the total population

, 000 persons

index*

urban

rural

1950

7709

100

21.0

79.0

1959

8096

105

30.8

69.2

1970

9002

111

43.4

56.6

1979

9532

106

55.1

44.9

1989

10152

106

65.4

34.6

1999

10045

99

69.3

30.7

* index calculated by comparing population size with previous year

Agriculture and Crop Production (see Table 2 land area of the Republic is 20,759,600 ha; including 9,281,500 ha of agricultural land. Ploughed land is 6,181,700 ha (as at 1 January, 2000), i.e. 30 per cent of the area. Most arable land is in the Central Zone - in Minsk, Grodno and Mogiljov regions arable land makes up 33-36 per cent. Crops vary according to zones. The northern area is a flax growing region; as much as 34 per cent of flax production and processing is here. The central area leads in producing grain, vegetables and potatoes (31-40 per cent). The south leads in sugar beet (37 per cent).The most important branch is grain; more than a half of the crop area is under cereals. Winter rye and wheat are of the greatest importance. Barley and oats are the most important fodder cereals.

Table 2. Sown area of agricultural crops (,000 ha)

 

1990

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

1990/1999

Rye

917.0

969.0

867.0

855.0

790.0

641.0

(276.0)

Wheat

140.0

177.0

273.0

296.0

369.0

411.0

+271.0

Barley

1,030.0

1,033.0

935.0

885.0

839.0

811.0

(219.0)

Oats

360.0

337.0

335.0

325.0

293.0

293.0

(67.0)

Maize grain

8.0

1.0

2.0

3.0

2.0

4.0

(4.0)

Buckwheat

18.0

18.0

19.0

19.0

16.0

23.0

+5.0

Flax

149.0

98.0

79.0

72.0

75.0

76.0

(73.0)

Sugar beets

46.0

55.0

45.0

47.0

52.0

55.0

+9.0

Rape

49.0

48.0

29.0

28.0

84.0

136.0

+87.0

Potatoes

638.0

725.0

719.0

700.0

695.0

661.0

(23.0)

Vegetables

41.0

77.0

85.0

83.0

87.0

93.0

+52.0

Forage crops

2,404.0

2,451.0

2,543.0

2,550.0

2,522.0

2,578.0

+174.0

From the early nineteen nineties changes took place in the structure of the arable area because of the complicated economic situation in the processing industry and unsettled markets: thus in the grain area winter rye was considerably reduced (from 917,000 ha in 1990 to 64,000 ha in 1999). This led to an increase of wheat, but the barley area declined from 1,030,000 ha in 1990 to 811,000 ha in 1999. The area under flax (often referred to as "Northern silk") fell from 149,000 ha in 1990 to 76,000 ha in 1999.

Organization of the rape oil industry has encouraged considerable growth of the rape area (from 49 000 ha in 1990 to 136,000 ha in 1999). The area under vegetables has doubled in the last decade. Land under sugar beet and potatoes is stable. This indicates that their market in the republic is sound enough.

Structural changes mentioned above have been accompanied by yield decreases in all main crops (Table 3). Cereal yields fell by 39.5 per cent, potatoes - 16.3; sugar beets - 32.2, vegetables - 27.0, flax - 23 per cent.

Table 3. Yields of major crops (quintals per hectare)

 

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

Wheat

27.3

25.3

27.9

26.9

22.7

24.8

22.0

25.1

21.3

17.3

Rye

28.9

25.1

30.6

27.9

22.5

22.1

20.7

20.9

17.5

14.5

Barley

28.2

25.4

26.6

28.4

23.8

19.0

23.5

26.7

19.3

14.6

Oats

22.4

21.1

21.7

28.2

20.6

18.9

21.1

25.3

17.1

12.6

Buckwheat

6.1

7.5

3.3

9.2

1.7

7.8

9.6

8.0

8.7

3.9

Fibre flax

3.5

6.3

4.9

5.9

5.9

6.1

6.2

3.6

4.8

2.7

Sugar beets

320.0

256.0

219.0

283.0

187.0

212.0

223.0

267.0

278.0

217.0

Potatoes

135.0

137.0

115.0

155.0

118.0

131.0

151.0

99.0

109.0

113.0

Vegetables

178.0

174.0

130.0

158.0

141.0

133.0

137.0

131.0

129.0

130.0

The yield decrease is caused by a decline in all basic production financing and by less intensive inputs. The tractor fleet of agricultural enterprises decreased from 126,200 units in 1990 to 90,500 in 1999; combine - harvester fleet from 30,300 to 19,500 units. Mineral fertilizer use fell from 277 kg/ha in 1990 to 109 kg/ha in 1999.


 

2. SOILS AND TOPOGRAPHY

Topography. Belarus is predominantly lowland - flat plains occupy 60 percent of the territory, plateaux 10 percent, and highland hilly areas nearly 30 percent. The north-west has broken and highland relief, while in the south-eastern part the land is mainly level. The south of the Republic is occupied by vast areas of Belarusian Polesje (wood land) which is a large waterlogged flat depression stretching for 450 km from the river Bug to the Dniepr. The relief of Belarus is divided into 4 regions:

I.  Belarusian lake-land occupies the northern part. Altitudes are 120-160 m. The relief consists of an alternation of hills and bottomlands with relatively colder humid climate and loamy bouldery soils. There are nearly three thousand lakes in the region including the largest, Narotch.

II.  The central region of Belarus glacial hills and ridges in the central part of the republic. The greatest heights of Belarus are here (Mt. Lysaja - 242 m, Mt. Dzerzhinskaja - 345 m). The region also contains the watershed of the Chernomorsk and Baltic basin. Sandy - loam soils dominate.

III.  The region of plains and bottomlands of Predpolesje occupies an intermediate position between the hills of the centre and the bottom land of Polesje. General height is 160-190 m and the relief is made up of typical river valleys.

IV.  The regions of the Polesje bottomlands occupy the southern lower part of Belarus with flattest plain, waterlogged relief and sandy peat soils.

The hydrographic network involves the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea basins. The main watershed stretches from north-east to south-west along the Minsk highland. Water systems of the Western Dvina, the Nieman and the Western Bug (42 per cent of the republic’s territory) belong to the Baltic basin, while those of the Dnieper (58 per cent) belong to the Black Sea basin. The river network is dense, 0.44 km of river/km2. There are 20,800 rivers. Large rivers, more than 500 km long, are the Dnieper, the Western Dvina, the Nieman, the Prypyat, the Soge, and the Beresina. The Dnieper basin occupies the north and south and its territory in the republic is 105,000 km2. The Western Dvina basin takes up the northern part of the republic with an area of 33,200 km2 . The Nieman basin in the west has an area of 35,000 km2. Belarus has more than 10,000,000 lakes, most of them small; the largest is Naratch (with a surface area of 79,600 km2).

AGL Website

Soils. The soils of the Republic are divided into:

- auto amorphic soils (not swampy with normal moistening) which are typical of hilly relief and are the main areas that are constantly cultivated by ploughing (52.3 percent of Belarus);

- semi hydromorphic soils (swampy, partly waterlogged) typical of low relief lands (i.e. lowlands that are wet in certain periods of the year, such as early spring and after very heavy rainfall) and are occupied by forests mainly (27 percent);

- hydromorphic soils (peat-boggy, constantly water-logged - 20.1 percent of Belarus).

Sward-podzolic soils dominate in Belarus, comprising nearly 67 percent of all types of soils. Sward-podzolic soils of normal moistening occupy 33 percent of agricultural lands, while sward-podzolic waterlogged soils occupy 33.8 percent of agricultural lands. Sward-podzolic soils have a light mechanical composition. This can be seen in the example of arable soils in Table 4.

Table 4. Mechanical types of arable soils (as of 01.01.1990)

Region

Total arable lands

Including

Clay soil

Middle and light-loamy soil

Sandy-loam soil*

Sandy soil*

Peat soil

Belarus Total

5620.8

24.0

1448.5

2693.8

1163.5

291.0

Brest

776.5

0.1

22.1

299.5

371.1

83.7

Vitebsk

1117.2

22.9

575.6

422.2

77.7

18.8

Gomel

788.4

-

21.4

311.1

380.5

75.4

Grodno

821.5

0.9

42.2

641.5

132.1

4.8

Minsk

1174.5

0.1

389.0

567.8

115.4

102.2

Mogiljov

942.7

-

398.2

451.7

86.7

6.1

* podzolic soils

Peat-podzolic soil predominates and makes up nearly 68 percent of all soils. Peat-boggy soils are widespread in Belarus; high-moor peat soils predominate in the north of the Republic, and lowland peat in the central and southern part of the Republic (Table 5)

Table 5. The area of peat soils

Region

Light soils

Low soils

Peat soils totally

Including those with peat depth up to 1 m

Peat soils totally

Including those with peat depth up to 1 m

Belarus Total

250.9

98.5

2361.3

1081.6

Brest

19.1

10.8

625.9

337.5

Vitebsk

114.9

32.6

374.6

128.5

Gomel

19.8

10.6

459.9

260.3

Grodno

11.2

4.4

196.4

92.9

Minsk

58.1

28.2

469.9

222.7

Mogiljov

27.8

11.8

172.6

39.7

The area of soils of the independent type-bogs is given in table 6.

Table 6. Bogs available (i.e. unploughed bogs*), ‘000 ha

Region

Bogs

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

Belarus Total

957.6

947.0

954.3

961.3

959.2

Brest

277.1

268.6

276.2

285.6

286.0

Vitebsk

254.2

252.9

245.5

245.5

246.2

Gomel

153.4

153.5

159.4

160.1

161.9

Grodno

80.4

81.9

82.2

81.6

82.1

Minsk

90.9

88.3

88.5

86.9

82.7

Mogiljov

101.6

101.8

102.5

101.6

100.3

* peat bogs are a separate land use category - "waterlogged" lands

All agricultural lands in the Republic are estimated according to fertility on the grounds of the dominant soil type (Table 7).

Table 7. Soil fertility level (since 01.01.2000)*

Region

Agricultural lands-total

Arable

Improved hay lands and pastures

Natural hay lands and pastures

Belarus Total

28.9

31.2

26.8

15.2

Brest

29.5

31.9

27.6

17.5

Vitebsk

25.8

26.6

27.7

13.4

Gomel

27.5

30.1

24.9

16.5

Grodno

31.6

34.4

28.1

16.4

Minsk

30.4

32.8

26.3

14.3

Mogiljov

28.8

31.6

27.0

14.5

*numbers are the units used in the evaluation of agricultural land fertility according to a cadastre, i.e. every plot of fields, pastures, hayfields is evaluated by a scoring system

Land reclamation. The most important human intervention that has changed the structure of land use in Belarus in the last fifty years has been the large-scale reclamation. Drainage was carried out on 3,221,600 ha (15.5 percent of the country’s area) of which 2,927,100 ha were agricultural land (31 percent of their total area). Of the 2,927,100 ha some 1,326,800 ha were arable or ploughed land, and 1,600,300 ha of the drained lands were under hay and pasture (Table 8).

Table 8. Available drained lands (as of 01.01.2000), ‘000 ha

Region

Arable land

Hay lands

Pastures

Total*

Including those with closed drainage

Total*

Including those with closed drainage

Total*

Including those with closed drainage

Total

1326.8

1081.1

815.1

477.2

785.2

592.2

Brest

314.3

187.5

185.8

67.4

187.8

116.4

Vitebsk

375.0

343.9

69.3

38.2

81.0

70.2

Gomel

213.1

178.7

175.2

123.2

141.5

107.6

Grodno

67.1

60.3

112.2

65.9

113.8

86.7

Minsk

257.7

218.9

171.9

116.5

167.0

136.4

Mogiljov

99.6

91.8

100.7

66.0

94.1

74.9

* Total includes "open" and "closed" drained lands

The largest tracts of drained agricultural lands are in Polesje (Brest, Gomel, Minsk region) where they occupy 40-70 percent of the total agricultural land. There are 684,100 hectares of drained agricultural lands in Brest region the difference between this figure and the total of 687,900 ha in Table 8 is due to some land having been put out of use because of non-functioning drainage systems, but these differences for all regions are small, (46 percent of the agricultural lands of the region), 529,800 hectares - in Gomel region (36 percent), 596,600 hectares - in Minsk region (31 percent), 522,300 hectares - in Vitebsk region (30 percent), 293,100 hectares - in Grodno region (22 percent), 294,400 hectares in Mogiljov region (20 percent). Recently, drainage has been designed with dual - side water regulation (drainage and irrigation). It enables the optimum water - air regime to be maintained during the growing period. The first stages included only drainage, which is why a large area under reclamation was over-drained and now needs irrigation. The areas of lands under irrigation are given in Table 9.

Table 9. Available irrigated lands (as of 01.01.2000) ‘000 ha

Region

Arable

Hay lands

Pastures

Total

Including drained and irrigated lands - dual regulation

Total

Including drained and irrigated lands - dual regulation

Total

Including drained and irrigated lands - dual regulation

Total

72.6

23.7

9.1

8.8

32.7

22.0

Brest

10.5

2.5

0.4

0.4

8.4

6.3

Vitebsk

8.7

6.0

1.3

1.2

5.6

4.0

Gomel

17.3

3.4

3.3

3.3

9.3

5.8

Grodno

5.9

1.6

1.7

1.7

2.6

1.7

Minsk

17.7

7.8

1.8

1.8

4.5

3.2

Mogiljov

12.5

2.4

0.6

0.4

2.3

1.0

Half of the land in Belarus is highly acid and needs liming. Regular liming began in 1964. Up to 2000 six stages of liming were carried out. This resulted in larger areas of land with reduced acidity. The soils are poor in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium so they require application of mineral fertilizers. Many farms have soil maps and maps showing the supply of phosphorus, potassium and some micro-elements.

Radioactive pollution In 1986 due to the Chernobyl accident 23 percent of Belarus territory [including forest], where 2,200,000 people lived, was polluted with radioactivity. According to data from the Belarusian Research Institute for Soil Science and Agrochemistry the agricultural area polluted with caesium 137 was 1,500,000 ha and with strontium 90 nearly 500,000 ha. In 2001 agricultural production used 1,351,000 ha which are polluted with caesium 137 having a density level of more than 1 ki/km2 and 555,000 ha (1 ki =37kd  k/m2) polluted with strontium 90 having a density of more than 0.15 ki/km2. Some polluted lands have been set-aside as a radiological reserve. Plants absorb strontium 90 more intensively than radioactive caesium 137. When water level and humus content increases, the stability of links between radionuclides and soil also increase and plants absorb them less intensively.

During the first four years after the accident there were no great changes in radionuclide migration in the soil; the most radioactive part was the surface five centimetres soil humus layer. To reduce the amount of radionuclides in crops it is necessary to carry out measures, which will first of all include liming and the application of mineral fertilizers. The main agricultural areas polluted with radionuclides are in Gomel (58 percent) and Mogiljov (27 percent) regions where large additional investments are needed in order to produce normatively clean products (allowed levels of radionuclide pollution must not exceed 100 d k/l in milk, 500 d k/kg in beef - in Russia corresponding levels are 50 d k/l and 160 d k/kg respectively). [N.B. Ki - is a national unit of physical radioactivity while the international one is d k (beckerel). d k/l (beckerel per litre) is a unit of radionuclide content in agricultural products].


 

3. CLIMATE AND AGRO-ECOLOGICAL ZONES

The climate of Belarus is mild and comparatively moist, under the considerable influence of the Atlantic Ocean. It can be characterized as transitional between marine and continental. Photosynthetic active radiation (FAR) in summer (June) on the Republic varies from 250.5 to 320.0 MJ/m2. The growing period lasts on the average 209 days in the southwest, 178-190 days in the northeast and in the centre (Table 10).

Table 10. Climatic data for the main divisions

District

Days with mean temperatures above 50

Photosynthetic active radiation during the period with the temperature above 50 (MJ/m2)

The total number of effective temperature days

Mean temp. in July (0 C)

Annual rainfall (mm)

Rainfall when daily temperature above 100*

Brest

209

1729

2466

18.4

619

348

Vitebsk

185

1500

2151

17.8

657

343

Gomel

197

1634

2441

18.7

634

326

Grodno

199

1600

2284

17.5

602

329

Minsk

183

1549

2185

17.6

969

358

Mogiljov

187

1574

2242

18.0

679

346

* Rainfall in mm in vegetative period when sum of temperature during 24 hours averages >100C (i.e. the period when precipitation is used most effectively by plants)

The average temperature of the warmest month (July) in most of Belarus ranges from 17 0C in the north to 19 0C in the southeast. The sum of daily mean temperatures above 100 (during the period of active growth) varies from 21000 in the northern border to 25000 in the south of the Republic. Belarus is characterized by sufficient humidity; mean annual rainfall is 600-650 mm in the central and north-eastern part and is a little less than 600 mm in the low-lying part. During warm periods rainfall constitutes 70-72 percent of the annual rainfall. Maximum rainfall in most cases is in July, August, and in the southwest in June. Relative air humidity in May and June is the lowest, and increases towards the end of summer. The proportion of heat and moisture resources in most districts of Belarus is expressed by a humidity index - 1.2 (in the south of the Republic) and 1.7 - 1.8 (in the north-east). In spring one can observe full soaking of the soil, and in summer evaporation exceeds rainfall. It leads to a considerable decrease of moisture in the upper layer of soil where most root systems of grassland vegetation are located. During these periods grass growth is reduced by 40-60 percent. Depending on heat and moisture supply the territory of Belarus can be divided into 3 agro-climatic regions (Figure 2):

  1. Northern damp temperate
  2. Central warm moderately humid
  3. Southern warm unstable humid

Each agro-climatic region is divided in two by the "contour line" of the number of days with temperature from 5 to 150 over the area: in the western part where the number of such days is more than 110, and the eastern part with less than 110 days.

belarus2.gif (15691 bytes)

Figure 2. Agro-climatic regions of Belarus

Landscape The republic is within one natural zone - the temperate continental forest type - and its landscape is rather uniform. Taking into consideration transitional zonal features within this type, several subtypes of landscape can be distinguished - mixed forest and marshy woodland subtype. Boreal "tajozny" subtype of landscape occupies two thirds of the republic and is common in the northern and central parts. Forest landscape constitutes about 30 per cent and is characterized by the prevalence of conifers and by about 300 cubic meters per hectare of timber of medium-age. Agricultural use of land is hindered by medium, and sometimes high (12-22 per cent) concentration of boulders and by steep slopes. Natural pastures are waterlogged and bush-infested, which makes their agricultural development difficult. The land is drained by such large rivers as the western Dvina and the Nieman.

The subtype "subpolessky" marshy woodland landscape occupies about a third of Belarusian territory, in the south. Forest landscape constitutes more than 30 percent and broad-leaf species prevail. Lowland grass and bushy-grass marshes are widespread over this area. The largest tracts of lowland marshes have been drained and developed. More than 30 per cent of landscape area in marshy woodland is used for agriculture. The landscape is drained and formed by the flood plains of large rivers such as the Dnieper, the Pripyat, the Beresina, the Soge, and the western Bug. Meadows and grass marshes are widely used for haymaking and grazing.

Plant cover is represented by forest, meadow and marshy phytocoenoses. There are about 1,650 species of vascular plants with grasses predominating (91 per cent, about 1,500 species) in the modern Belarusian flora. Apart from higher plants the Belarusian flora includes more than 1,000 species of higher mushrooms, about 500 species of algae, 600 species of lichens and 400 moss-like species. Woodlands occupy 8,676,100 ha, of which 7,371,700 ha are directly under forests, that is 35 per cent of the territory of the republic. Meadows take up 3,286,100 ha (15.8 percent of the total land area). Continental meadows prevail (94.8 percent), while are still in their natural state, which is 11.5 per cent of the country’s territory. The unique forest, forest-lake, meadow and marshy landscape is conserved in reserves and national parks (see Table 11).

Table 11. Nature Reserves and National Parks

Name and function

Area, ‘000 hectares

Year of formation

Nature reserves

Berezinsky biosphere nature reserve - to preserve typical complexes from the sub-zone of broad-leaf spruce sub-taiga forests

81.8

1925

Polessky radiation and ecological reserve - to preserve natural complexes that have been exposed to radioactive contamination, their unique landscape and geo-botanical structure unchanged aiming at integrated study and long-term radiobiological monitoring

215.5

1988

National parks

Belovezhskaya puscha - to preserve unique natural complex typical of the Republic of Belarus and Europe; ensure natural evolution processes

96.2

1940

Pripyatsky - to preserve the natural stage of the landscape unique to Belarusian Polesye, on the basis of studying changes in nature that resulted from draining of the Polesye Lowland

82.5

1969

Braslar lakes - to preserve the natural complex of Braslar lakes and the genetic fund of florae and fauna

69.1

1995

Narochanski - to preserve the unique natural complex and to make more efficient use of the recreation capacity of the natural resources of Mjadelsky district

897

1999

There are also 90 reserves of national importance (810,100 ha) and 716 of local importance (4,122 ha). The especially preserved and protected natural areas of Belarus cover 1,650,000 ha (7.9 percent of the country’s territory).


 

4. RUMINANT LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION SYSTEMS

Historical Background.Traditionally livestock production in Belarus has been developed on raising horned cattle, since there is a wealth of pasture grasses on natural forage lands. It is no coincidence that the red Belarussian cattle breed was formed, and during a whole millennium has remained the most important factor of practical livestock production in the republic. Unfortunately, lack of proper breeding in the region led to almost absolute loss of this breed which in recent years was completely removed by more productive black and white breeds. At present black and white stock from Germany and Holland are the main breed in all regions of Belarus.

Present Status in Livestock Production. Livestock include 4,300,000 head of cattle, 3,500,000 pigs, 30,000,000 poultry and a small number of horses, sheep and goats. Results of the national livestock census for 2000 are presented in Table 12. Large public and collective farms specialize in cattle and pig production while goat, horse and sheep are typical of private farms belonged. The rural population of the republic also keep considerable amounts of cattle, sheep and pigs.

Table 12. National Livestock Census 2000 (thousand head)

Tenure

Cattle

Pigs

Sheep

Goats

Horses

Poultry

Public sector

Agricultural enterprises

3626

2225

7

--

119

20004

Private sector

Households plots

696

1333

84

58

101

10003

Private individual farms

4

8

1

-

0.6

--

Total

4326

3566

92

58

220.6

30007

Cattle breeds include: Red Belarussian cattle are a branch of red West-Slavic cattle, descended from short-horned cattle of Ancient Egypt. Under the influence of ecological conditions red West-Slavic cattle gave a number of landraces, from which in nineteenth century the following breeds were formed: Polish, Belarussian-Lithuanian and red Danish.
Afterwards from Belarussian-Lithuanian breed a red Belarussian was selected. In creation of red Belarussian breed group the native feed and climatic conditions had the main importance. By the beginning of the twentieth century purebred native herds were already in all provinces in Belarus. For breeding herds of red Belarussian cattle average indices of milk fatness are 4.0 - 4.2 percent; protein content in milk - 3.6 - 3.8 percent. Body weight in average is 500-540 kg, that of servicing bulls is 800-850 kg.

After 1990 substantial changes in livestock production began, first of all a significant recession in livestock numbers as well as production took place that had been caused by changes in the economic situation in the republic (Table 13). The drop in livestock numbers has largely continued from 1995 to the present.

Table 13. Livestock numbers, milk, meat and wool production and milk and meat imports for the period 1996-2005

Item

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

Cattle nos(,000)

5,054

4,855

4,801

4,686

4,326

4,221

4,085

4,005

3,924

3,963

Sheep nos (,000)

203.5

155.3

127.2

106.1

91.9

89.1

82.6

72.7

63.0

59.0

Goats nos (,000)

58

59

59

56.3

58.3

65

66

64

63

66

Horses nos (,000)

228.6

231.5

233.2

228.7

221.3

216.5

209.4

201.7

191.8

180.8

Pig nos. (mill.)

3.9

3.7

3.7

3.7

3.6

3.4

3.4

3.3

3.3

3.4

Milk production (,000) mt.

4908.4

5132.5

5232.4

4740.8

4489.6

4834.1

4772.5

4682.6

5149.6

5678.0

Meat* production (,000) mt.

623

631.7

672.9

652

597.9

626.5

616.9

605

629.2

697.6

Wool production mt.

328

268

217

194

184

163

154

136

125

125

Milk equivalent imports (,000 mt)

28.5

27.0

8.3

24.4

59.7

32.0

31.6

30.3

43.9

n.r.

Total meat imports (,000 mt)

6.4

19.3

32.2

32.8

40.4

34.1

31.9

63.0

72.6

n.r.


Source: FAO statistical database 2006

*Meat=beef+veal, mutton+lamb, pigmeat+chicken.

As shown in Table 13 cattle numbers in the republic have fallen by 27 percent, sheep by 74 percent and only goats and horses were stable since they are mostly kept on private farms and were not subject to market forces; although number of horses began to fall after 2000. Pig numbers fell from 3.9 M to 3.4 M over the same period 1995-2006. Meat and milk imports have increased considerably over the same period.

Public and Collective Sectors. Public and collective farms have 88 percent of all agricultural land in Belarus; they keep 85 percent of all cattle , 62 percent of pigs, 7 percent of sheep but do not keep goats. Average land area per farm in the public sector is for 3,800 ha in collective farms and 2,600 ha in public agricultural enterprises.

The present status of livestock in the public sector depends to a great extent on activity of large farms and complexes. There are 112 complexes (1992 data) with capacity for 3,000 and more cattle; 109 complexes for 12,000 to 24,000; these had been built in every region before 1990 when in the USSR. Many cattle complexes are in the Central and South-Western zones of the republic where vast grass lands are available.

The main productive system in the public sector is mixed cut-grazing cattle management. Practically all dairy livestock are on improved pastures for 140-170 days in the warm period. In the grazing season they yield 60 to 70 percent of the whole year’s milk. All feeder cattle on livestock complexes and farms are fed green mass, cut on natural hay lands as well as perennial grasses grown on arable land. In winter all cattle are fed haylage.

Mixed cut-grazing system of cattle management fits the republic’s environmental and economic conditions. Public collective farms that apply this system of cattle management produce up to 70 percent of marketed milk and meat.

Private sector. Lands of individual farms (which are few) as well as household plots, account for only 12 percent of all agricultural land. In that sector there are: cattle - 16 percent, horses - 46 percent, sheep - 89 percent, and all the goats (see Table 12). Private sector production is based on mixed cut-graze cattle management and is, at present, extensive owing to poor technical equipment and weak financial position. The private sector produces up to 30 percent of milk and beef.


 

5. THE PASTURE RESOURCE

Vegetation Types. Forage resources are mostly from one vegetation type - forest-meadow - which covers three of the agro-climatic regions - northern, central, and almost all southern. Only a small part of the extreme south (near the Ukrainian border) is another vegetation type.

According to the classification (Shklar, 1973) forest-meadow zone for 97.8 percent of the republic’s territory; within the zone (> 600 mm) pasture ecological conditions differ sharply depending on relief: humid flat and sloping areas are the main type - dry valley pastures, low-lying lands with additional ground water are the second type - lowland pastures (see Table 14).

Table 14. Pasture Resources of Belarus

Pasture type

thousand ha

Percent

Dry valley pastures on slight-undulating plains and hilly areas of watersheds on podzolic and derno-podzolic soils

2,919.8

14.0

Lowland pastures on hollows between hills on meadow peat soils

55.0

0.3

Total unimproved pasture area

2,974.9

14.3

Improved pastures and hayfields

2,213

10.7

Grass on arable land

1,393.8

6.7

Forests

8,414.5

40.5

Total area of Belarus

20,760

100

The pasture area in the republic accounts for nearly 2,975,000 ha including 2,920,000 ha of dry valley pastures on slight-undulating plains and hilly areas and 55,000 ha of lowland pastures on low-lying places and hollows between hills. Most pastures are improved. According to an assessment by the Belarus Research Institute of Experimental Botany (San’ko, 1983) the potential of natural dry valley pastures makes up about 1 ton of dry mass, that of lowland pastures - 1.5 - 2 tons. After fundamental improvement of these types of pastures their productivity increases in 3 -3.5 times.

Characteristics of Pasture Vegetation.Dry valley pastures are divided in 3 groups:

  • Dry valley pastures on hilly areas (northern and central regions) contain the following typical plants: Nardus stricta, Festuca rubra, F. ovina, Poa pratensis, Anthoxanthum odoratum, Achillea millefolium, Plantago.
  • Dry valley pastures on plains (southern region) have the following typical plants: Agrostis gigantea, Poa pratensis, Festuca pratensis, Trifolium pratensis, Trifolium repens, Taraxacum officinale.

Dry valley pastures on areas with difficult run-offs - hollows- are characterized by the following plants Deschampsia caespitosa, Poa pratensis, Ranunculus acer, Ranunculus bulbosum, Carex:

  • Lowlands pastures on low-lying areas (part of northern, central and western regions) have following typical plants: Deschampsia caespitosa, Poa palustris, P. pratensis, Agrostis gigantea, Ranunculus acer, R. bulbosum, Carex.
  • Pasture vegetation of forest-steppe zone in the republic (<400 mm) grows on plains and has the following typical species: Bromus erectus, Poa compressa, Lotus corniculatus, Trifolium pratense, T. repens.
  • Lowland pastures on hollows (part northern and part south): Deschampsia caespitosa, Poa palustris, Poa pratensis, Agrostis gigantean, Ranunculus acer, Ranunculus bulbosum, Carex.

The present situation in natural forage production. The total area of natural grasslands (Tables 15 and 16) is 2,974,800 ha (14.3 percent of the total territory) including 2,212,500 ha of improved pastures ( 24 percent of the agricultural land). Natural herbage makes up half of the pasturelands. This gives an opportunity to increase roughage production (pasture forage, silage made from under cured hay, haylage, hay and others) by improving natural grasslands.

Table 15. Pasture Resources in Belarus (,000 ha)

Region

Pasture

Total

Improved pastures

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

Belarus Total

1706.0

1699.3

1696.0

1701.5

1688.8

1227.4

1220.8

1219.0

1225.8

1217.7

Brest

343.0

341.1

340.0

339.6

340.4

277.4

272.2

271.9

272.0

272.4

Vitebsk

298.0

294.9

297.9

298.9

293.5

180.6

180.4

184.5

185.7

185.6

Gomel

265.6

266.5

261.9

265.7

263.2

209.6

210.6

207.6

210.8

208.4

Grodno

227.6

225.5

226.4

226.4

226.0

166.0

164.1

166.0

166.4

166.5

Minsk

316.0

315.8

314.9

315.5

313.9

248.0

247.5

246.7

247.9

241.4

Mogiljov

255.8

255.5

254.9

255.4

251.8

145.8

146.0

142.5

143.0

143.4


Table 16. Hayfield Resources in Belarus (,000 ha)

Region

Hayfield

Total

Improved pastures

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

Belarus Total

1254.3

1257.5

1290.9

1294.5

1286.0

952.5

959.2

992.7

997.4

994.8

Brest

255.3

256.0

257.4

258.1

257.4

214.4

217.6

219.4

220.9

220.3

Vitebsk

173.2

168.0

199.9

199.6

193.6

92.2

91.1

123.3

123.9

123.2

Gomel

264.4

271.3

270.8

274.2

270.4

204.3

208.4

208.2

209.7

206.6

Grodno

147.1

148.2

148.9

148.8

148.4

128.0

128.7

130.2

130.4

130.3

Minsk

233.3

233.7

233.5

233.0

236.8

196.5

196.6

196.7

197.0

196.8

Mogiljov

181.0

180.3

180.4

180.8

179.4

117.1

116.8

114.9

115.5

117.6

There are large areas with natural pastures and hay in the south of the Republic: Brest region - 598,000 ha and Gomel region - 534.000 ha. The area of pasture is 1.3 times higher than the area of hay lands. Estimation of the qualitative structure of natural grasslands shows a high proportion of improved areas: 77 percent of hay lands and 72 percent of pastures. Most of these lands are in satisfactory technical and cultural condition. At the same time the degradation of natural grasslands is increasing. First of all floral completeness of natural and sown plant communities is decreasing. Negative tendencies have taken place during the last years in terms of supplying livestock with grassland forage. In 1990 grassland forage made up 59 percent of green forage, but today it has fallen to 43 percent. The efficiency of pastures and hay during the last five years has declined by 25 percent (Table 17).

Table 17. Pasture and hay productivity

Region

Productivity of dry matter (t/ha)

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

Belarus Total

2.4

2.6

2.4

1.9

1.8

Brest

2.6

2.8

2.8

2.3

1.9

Vitebsk

2.4

2.4

2.3

1.4

1.6

Gomel

2.2

2.4

2.4

1.8

1.8

Grodno

2.6

3.0

2.9

2.3

2.1

Minsk

2.7

2.8

2.3

1.7

1.9

Mogiljov

1.8

2.0

1.8

1.6

1.5

This is caused by an insufficient application of mineral fertilizers, mainly nitrogenous ones (Table 18) which leads to a further loss of importance of pastures and hay in forage production.

Table 18. Mineral fertilizer application on hayfields and pastures

Region

Years

1996-2000

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

Total amount of NPK in kg/ha on fertilized area

Brest

67

76

81

85

93

80

Vitebsk

58

71

80

75

81

73

Gomel

73

76

78

82

96

81

Grodno

81

86

93

98

110

94

Minsk

73

82

84

89

105

87

Mogiljov

67

74

74

80

81

75

Belarus

71

78

82

85

95

82

N

Brest

40

40

44

41

36

40

Vitebsk

48

50

49

44

44

47

Gomel

30

32

28

24

23

27

Grodno

46

45

48

47

45

46

Minsk

37

40

38

36

37

38

Mogiljov

37

37

40

32

31

35

Belarus

39

40

41

37

35

38

P2O5

Brest

1

2

2

1

1

1

Vitebsk

 

1

2

1

1

1

Gomel

4

3

3

2

4

3

Grodno

1

2

2

2

2

2

Minsk

1

2

2

1

1

1

Mogiljov

2

4

2

3

3

3

Belarus

2

3

2

2

2

2

K2O

Brest

27

34

36

43

56

39

Vitebsk

10

20

29

30

36

25

Gomel

38

41

47

56

69

50

Grodno

33

40

43

50

62

46

Minsk

35

40

45

52

67

48

Mogiljov

28

33

32

45

47

37

Belarus

30

36

39

47

58

42

  1. Poor soils, small areas as the result of a complex broken relief, boulders and bushes, water erosion (southern part) are the main restricting factors of natural pasture efficiency.
  2. Low level of material and technical inputs; first of all insufficient application of mineral fertilizers, lack of machinery.
  3. Imperfection of organizational and technological decisions that lead to systematic overgrazing of grass, their unseasonable use, improvement and degradation.
  4. Insufficient selectivity of pasture plants according to their productivity and resistance to toxic influence of aluminium ions (Al3+) and hydrogen ions (H+) which make for soil acidity and is typical of sod-podzolic soils of pasture lands.
  5. Absence of a legal basis able to regulate pasture management and feed production.

 

6. OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT OF FODDER RESOURCES

The main direction of pasture improvement before 1990 was intensification based on the expensive inputs of drainage and application of large amounts of mineral fertilizers. Today, due to the sharp decline of state investments in improvement of natural forage lands, it has become urgent to use methods that can increase the productivity of pastures and hay lands. The Belarusian Research Institute for Improvement and Meadowland Farming has given scientific proof of resources-preserving technologies. Methods of improving pastures and hay lands are included in three alternative systems of grassland farming: technogenic mineral, biological and mixed. Various systems of hay land farming are used due to the presence of different types of natural forage, different types of material and technical possibilities of collective and state farms and their location nearby or far from industrial centres. It allows increasing productivity potential of pastures and hay lands with the least expense.

In 2000 forage production on natural and sown pastures and hay lands had decreased by 30 percent compared with 1996. Therefore it is necessary to increase production by 5 percent annually during the next six-year period. In order to ensure the planned increase it is important to receive state assistance in the supply of machinery, for improving meadowlands, and change the mineral fertilizer supply to agricultural producers. An increase in nitrogen nutrition of grasses is the most important factor for an increase in pasture and hay productivity. Most types of meadow lack nitrogen; it influences not only production processes and photosynthetic structure but also the renewal of humus in the soil. The main alternative source of nitrogen in meadow today and in future is symbiotic fixation through the use of legumes.

Use of legumes.Use of biologically fixed nitrogen in meadowland farming in all zones is the main direction that can contribute to the productivity increase on pastures and hay lands. Perennial pasture legumes in mixtures, created by rationalization of species, are able to supply up to 80-120 kg/ha of nitrogen into feeds and 150-200 kg/ha by using irrigation. Research work by Grodno State Agrarian University in this field showed that use of legumes on a pasture over 5-6 years enriches the soil with nitrogen by 200-250 kg/ha in the roots, and with humus by 7-11 t/ha which is equivalent to 40-48 t/ha of manure (in terms of nitrogen content).

Different methods of meadow improvement can be used to achieve the benefits of biological nitrogen fixation:

  • According to research carried out by Grodno State Agrarian University, sod sowing of 5 kg/ha of Trifolium pratense into a pasture gave 4.5-5.0 thousand feed units per hectare; sowing of 3 kg/ha of Trifolium repens gave 9-11 thousands of feed units per hectare over 5 years with surface improvement of the old-sown grass stand. By 2005 the possible area sod-sown to legumes could be 500,000 ha.
  • Using a range of legumes with grasses enables them to be sown on pastures and hay lands: on cultivated soils Trifolium and Medicago can be used, on poor non cultivated soils Melilotus can be used, and on sloping land Galega.
  • Belarus is a peripheral area for Trifolium, but it has germplasm with the most important biological characteristics such as longevity, winter survival, tolerance of excess moisture , and ecological plasticity.
  • Belarusian specialists today use Trifolium pratense, repens, and hybridum. New perennial forages such as Medicago sativa, Medicago falcata, Galega orientalis, and Melilotus have great value for hay lands and pastures.

Weed control in pastures. Most natural pastures have been improved, but the major limiting factor is now weeds. Research shows that the density of small-stemmed weeds and coarser weeds on large areas often reaches 50,000-70,000 units per hectare and makes up to 30 percent and more of the total stand. Various weeds typical of the pastures of the country are Taraxacum, Leontodon, Rumex, Plantago and Ranunculus. They may form 100 percent of herbage cover in certain periods.

Agropyron is another typical weed which has a high regenerative ability. Increased application of nitrogen encouraged weeds in many grasslands and meadows. Carex and Juncus are dominant weeds on most natural pastures with an irregular water supply. Artemisia sometimes is very prevalent in the south of the Republic, in the Polesje (woodlands). The most recent research aims to find integrated measures of weed control. Application of herbicides with a certain fertilizer system has proved to be highly effective on weedy pastures. Pastures and hay lands with a weed burden of more than 30 percent can be ploughed and forage crops grown for a year or two.


 

7. RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATIONS AND PERSONNEL

The Ministry of Agriculture and Food (MSHP) is the leading governmental institution which organizes and finances works on natural fodder resources. The Ministry has five departments, one of which is in charge of pasture resources. The governing body of this department inspects farming trends and supplies farms with financial support, as well as investing in the main scientific programmes.

Belarus Research Institute of Agricultural Reclamation and Grassland Science (BelNIIM&L), created in 1930, is a centre of grassland science in the Republic; Polesskaya Experimental Station, Pinsk Complex Department, Vitebsk Experimental Farm are subordinate to the institute. BelNIIM&L conducts a research programme on natural meadow-pasture lands within the limits of the republic complex project "Agrocomplex 2001". The programme is based on the following aspects:

  • improvement in fertility and agricultural use of man-made soils which are formed on exhausted peat cutting areas;
  • creation of highly-productive forage lands on flood plain peat cutting areas;
  • formation and efficient use of long-term pastures on peat soils in Poless’e region;
  • cultivation of water-logged lands for pasture and hay lands.

Belarus Research Institute of Arable Farming and Fodders (BelNIIZK) coordinates research on breeding and seed production of perennial grasses and is engaged in creation of parent material and in growing new varieties (of diploid and tetraploid forms). The work on breeding new perennial forage cultivars is been carried out with Trifolium pratense, T. hybridum, T. repens, Dactylis glomerata, Festuca pratense, F. arundinacea and Galega orientalis.

The Belarus Research Institute of Experimental Botany is occupied in botanical resources on natural forage lands.

Ministries and organizations engaged in problems of pastures and hay lands:

Ministry of Agriculture and Food of Republic Belarus (MSHP), Kirova Str., 21, Minsk, Belarus, E-mail:korma@mshp.minsk.by

Mrs. Marija Parfenovitch, Senior Pasture Research officer: range management

Ministry of Statistics and Analysis (MinStat) Partizanskii Ave., 12, Minsk, Belarus

E-mail:minstat@mail.belpak.by

Mr. Zinovsky Wladimir, Director

Belarus Committee on Land Resources, Geodesy and Mapping (HosKomZem), Krasnozvezdnyi Lane 12, Minsk, Belarus

Fax: +213-47-25

Mr. Kuznetsov Georgy, Director

Belarus Research Institute of Agricultural Reclamation and Grassland Science (BelNIIM&L), Bogdanovicha Str., Minsk, Belarus

Fax: +232-64-96

Mr. Meerowsky Anatoly, Executive Director, sustainable natural resource management

Belarus Research Institute of Experimental Botany, Akademicheskaya Str. 27, Minsk

Fax: +284-18-53

Mr. Laman Nicolaj, Director: maintaining national herbarium


 

8. REFERENCES

State Land Register of Republic Belarus (on January 1, 2000)

Statistical Yearbook of Republic Belarus 2000

Anon. 1997. Economic Tendencies in Belarus: Quarterly Review #1 1997, Minsk, European Expert Services, p.18-19.

Sanko P. 1983. National Meadows of Belarus, their Characteristics and Evaluation. - Minsk: Science and Techniques, - 247s.

Shklar Y. 1973. Agroclimatic Resources of Belarus. - Minsk: Urozhai, - 421 s.


 

9. CONTACTS

The author of this paper is no longer in Belarus but can be contacted as follows:

Dr. Henrik Witkowski, Grodno, Belarus.

Fax (375152) 72-13-65

E-mail niwa@selhoz.belpak.grodno.by

The profile was prepared in September 2001 by Dr Witkowski.

[It was edited by Mr J. Suttie and S. G. Reynolds in October 2001 and livestock numbers and livestock production statistics were updated in November 2002 and October 2006 by S.G. Reynolds].