The first Ukrainian-French conference of walnut growers in the Odessa region was held on Friday, July 30, in the Izmail district, where is located the southernmost walnut orchard in Ukraine, owned by the VOL-NAT company (headed by Andrey Guk).
One of the strongest walnut growers in France, Sebastian Linard, spoke at it. The meeting was organised by the Ukrainian Nut Association together with the Institute of Horticulture of the National Academy of Agrarian Sciences of Ukraine.
In total, about 70 people took part in this landmark event for the country, including gardeners specialising in the cultivation of walnut crops. It was interesting for them to see the country’s first varietal walnut orchard, laid out in accordance with modern requirements, which Linard has been maintaining for many years.
A foreign specialist is a third generation walnut grower (his grandfather founded the family nursery in 1955), he owns LINARD FRANCE, a well-known company in France.
The walnut industry in Ukraine over the past four to five years has received a rather noticeable impetus in development, largely due to the vigorous activity of the Ukrainian Walnut Association under the leadership of Gennady Yudin. Thanks to this association, Ukrainian farmers who wished to start cultivating nut crops, received substantial material support. So, within the framework of the state programme, for the period from 2018 to 2020, the area of planted industrial walnut orchards in Ukraine amounted to 4303 hectares, or 44% of the area of all planted orchards.
Andrey Guk, the head of the VOL-NAT enterprise, conducted a tour of his garden, the foundation of which began in 2013, and without concealment told about the peculiarities of caring for walnuts, about the successes and not entirely pleasant moments of cultivating this culture. The garden occupies 91 hectares; about 17.5 thousand trees of the two most valuable French walnut varieties – Lara and Fernor – are planted on it. Since 2019, the garden has entered the initial period of fruiting, and last year its yield was about 1.4 tons per hectare. The farmer himself aims to produce five tons of walnuts per hectare in the future.
It is worth noting that the farmer’s varietal nuts shipped in shells for export last year were purchased at a rather high price – an average of US $ 2.23 per kg. For comparison: Ukrainian mixed nuts are exported at $ 0.87 per kg.
Andrei Guk’s garden is today considered exemplary in terms of intensive walnut growing. Here, drip irrigation is organised (42 liters of water are consumed per tree every day), which is carried out simultaneously with the addition of the necessary minerals and organic substances. Soil moisture is maintained at 80%, while watering the entire garden on hot days takes 11 hours, and does not stop at all during peak heat. According to the farmer, it is the proper amount of water that helps to form large nuts, without watering there will be no harvest.
Heavy torrential rains this year, on the one hand, helped the farmer save on water, but after that he had to carry out six fungicidal treatments. He says he’d better pay for the water.
In general, the laid walnut orchard enters into the most productive period in the 11th year, and after that, for almost 25 years, the collection of walnuts will be the same, and only then the fall will begin. Therefore, it is believed that investing in the establishment of walnut orchards is very profitable and promising – it is a good investment for a family for at least two generations.
Today in our country, 21 thousand hectares of land are used for walnut orchards (walnut – 52%, hazelnuts – 47% and almonds – 1%), the gross harvest of fruits is 113 thousand tons per year. Thus, Ukraine is one of the five largest exporters of nuts. Walnut is bought from us by France, Germany, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Netherlands.
The plenary part of the seminar was held in the VOL-NAT production facility. Following the meeting of the Academic Council of the Institute of Horticulture of NAASU, it was decided to award Sebastian Linard with the Golden Badge of the Ukrainian Walnut Association for his contribution to the development of walnut farming in Ukraine. The award was presented to the walnut grower by the senior researcher of the institute Viktor Kostenko.
As Gennady Yudin put it, in Ukraine there is an urgent need for its own linards – walnut growers are sorely lacking in theoretical knowledge. And therefore, in April this year, a memorandum was signed between the Ukrainian Walnut Association and the Odessa State Agrarian University on the opening of a full-time and part-time education at the Department of Horticulture of the University of Walnut Breeding. The first five students were invited to the meeting with the walnut growers, who successfully passed the entrance exams this summer.
The seminar, held in the south of the Odessa region, once again confirmed that interest in the cultivation of nuts in Ukraine is not weakening, and hope for the success of this direction is given by people who are ready not only to work tirelessly, but also agree to invest colossal investments in the creation of new high-quality varietal gardens, and also, having practical experience, find the opportunity to go to universities to acquire the necessary theoretical knowledge.