BEF’s Crops

Black Earth Farming grows three classes of crops; cereal grains, oilseeds, and potatoes and other field grown vegetables. Crop mix decisions should be based on sound underlying science, supported by statistically significant data from well managed crop trials. Agronomic data is typically held in public institutions or, increasingly, with life science companies. Historical Russian data was however often derived for biological and quantitative rather than economic optimums. Meanwhile, the peculiarities of the seed licensing process has not incentivized private companies to engage in large scale and in-depth trials adapted to the specific soils and the climate in Black Earth Farming’s regions. Black Earth Farming works with a world leading technical partner to build up this knowledge base and management capability internally and to support well researched and economically optimal crop growing decisions. Partly as a result of this research and driven by the local soil characteristics and geography, the Company has simplified its rotation and reduced the crop mix in its core business to focus on wheat, corn, barley and sunflower. In the vegetable crop segment, it launched pilot production of onions and carrots in 2015.

CEREALS (grain)

Cereal crops are members of the grass family where wheat, corn maize and rice are the most commonly farmed types worldwide and together account for approximately 85% of all grain production worldwide and 45% of all food calories.



21% of 2015 crop production volume

Most wheat is consumed in the form of baked goods, mainly bread. Wheat grains must therefore be milled to produce flour prior to consumption. Wheat is also used as an ingredient in compound feedstuffs, starch production and as a feed stock in ethanol production. The harvest quality of wheat can vary widely from high protein milling quality commanding a price premium to low quality feed used as animal fodder.

Black Earth Farming uses a combination of different wheat varieties. Winter wheat (20% of 2015 crop production) is planted during the autumn with internally grown seeds and is, like other winter crop, higher yielding compared to the corresponding spring crop (1% of 2015 crop production) variety due to having more growing days to develop. Winter and spring wheat are harvested during the same period, generally commencing in mid-July.


5% of 2015 crop production volume

Barley is mainly used as a component in various foods and as base malt for brewing beer and other distilled beverages such as whiskey. Lower quality barley is used for animal fodder.Barley varies can vary between malting and feed quality, which has an effect on price. Black Earth Farming cooperates with local brewers and aspires to grow a high share of malting quality barley on a contract basis with harvest usually starting around early August.


Corn Maize

55% of 2015 crop production volume

Corn is a major food and feed grain grown throughout the world in temperate and warm climates. It is the most widely grown crop in the Americas, where a major part of the production is used for corn ethanol. The Company cultivates this grain primarily in the southern regions where rainfall is more limited and the summer temperature is higher. Corn is a late harvest crop and is generally planted in May and cut in late September into October-November.



14% of 2015 crop production volume

Sunflowers are primarily used in food products and oils as well as livestock feed. Due to the sunflower’s drought resistant characteristics, it fills an important role in the overall crop mix. The crop is normally reaped a week or so after spring rape and just requires a simple addition to the combine header for harvesting, thus reducing additional capital expenditures.


Oilseed Rape (OSR)

0% of 2015 crop production volume

Rapeseeds are primarily used for producing vegetable oil and biodiesel. Winter rape generates a higher yield than spring rape due more growing days, yet carries a higher risk as the winter conditions can kill large parts of the seeded area. Rape characteristics enable a crop rotation system which ensures that winter wheat can be sown the following production year. The spring variety has lower risk than the winter variety but is also lower yielding.



0% of 2015 crop production volume

Soybean is one of the most popular and widely grown oilseeds. The derived product Soybean meal is a primary, relatively low-cost, source of protein for animal feeds or rations. Soy vegetable oil is another valuable product of processing the soybean crop. Soybeans can produce at least twice as much protein per hectare than any other major vegetable or grain crop. Soybeans, like most legumes, also perform beneficial nitrogen fixation in the soil.



4% of 2015 crop production volume

Approximately two thirds of the global potato production is consumed directly by humans, either directly as fresh potatoes or for processing into French fries or potato chips or crisps. The rest are fed to animals or used for other industrial uses e.g. to produce starch. Only about 5% of the world’s potato crop is traded internationally. To achieve acceptable quality levels for further processing, irrigation is usually employed in order to secure adequate water supply.



<1% of 2015 crop production volume

Carrots are one of the ten biggest vegetable crops in the world, in value terms. Russia is the world’s second largest producer of carrots and together with onions, cabbages and beetroot, they form an important part of the “Borsch mix” staple vegetable diet for many Russians. Almost all carrots are used for human consumption. They can be chopped, boiled, fried or steamed and are used in many processed food products. Carrots are usually irrigated and can be stored, but they are more perishable and difficult to store than potatoes. For this reason, from spring until harvest, most carrots in Russian retail stores are imported.



<1% of 2015 crop production volume

Russia is in the top ten of global producers of onions. Almost all onions are for human consumption for baking, boiling, grilling or frying. Onions can be produced from seed or from sets. In 2015, BEF produced them from sets. Onions can be stored in similar stores to potatoes. As with carrots, from spring onwards, Russia is mostly dependent on imported onions.