Co. Kildare man, Jim McCarthy quickly found out that improving soil quality is critical in developing a successful tillage operation in Romania.

Jim has been farming extensively in north east Romania for the past seven years. 

The land that McCarthy acquired had been previously been farmed in ways that had taken little cognisance of the need to improve and maintain soil quality.

The first step in his journey to improve this state of affairs was to bring all soil pH values up to around 6.5. Step two was to enhance soil P levels.

But as Jim also explained, during an interview for the Teagasc Tillage Edge podcast, the decision to stop ploughing was taken almost from the get-go.

He said: “Soil compaction was also a major problem on many of our sites. So a large amount of sub soiling was required to correct this state-of-affairs.

“At this stage we grow spring crops exclusively. All are established on the back of a min-till operation.

“Cover crops are also included within the overall crop management process.”

Seeds and cereals in Romania

McCarthy grows a mix of sunflowers, wheat, and oilseed rape and soya on his poorer soils. Sugar beet and grain maize are grown on better land.

“Wheat is grown, very much, as a break crop,” he explained.

“We produced 66,000t of sugar beet last year. Grain maize is also very important within the business.”

Looking ahead McCarthy sees a tremendous future in growing non-GM (genetically modified) soya.

“Europe is very short of protein, and soya meets this requirement very well. There is also tremendous scope to grow these crops using a combination of cover crops and min-till establishment methods,” he added.

Organic farming

In 2015, McCarthy bought an organic farm.

“We have remained committed to this form of production on that land,” he said.

“We have 130 people working within the business, 45 of whom are tractor drivers.

“We do all our own construction. Also included within the infrastructure of the business is a full-scale machinery dealership workshop,” he added.

“We had to take this approach, as we are 100 miles from the nearest commercial dealership.”

McCarthy is also quick to point to the legislative complications associated with a farming business in Romania.

He explained: “The government receives a financial update every month. We need five accountants to meet this requirement.

“We also have a team of lawyers, whose job it is to find all relevant land deeds and compact them within the business.”

McCarthy makes no secret of the fact that the availability of cheap land was a key driver for him in setting up a tillage operation in north eastern Romania in the first place.

“But, in turn, this meant that we had a lot of development work to do ourselves,” he concluded.