Before the beginning of agro technology section of this site in English I asked myself for whom I should do it. The point is there are too many different technologies of sbt cultivation all around the world depending on species, varieties, available resources etc. To describe all of them – is a great job, and I am not sure whether I will do it any day. Actually I well aware about Russian approaches for local conditions, but they are already available in Russian version of this site. So after long negotiations with myself I decided that will do it for all foreigners who are interested in cultivation technologies of mongolica subspecies. The point is varieties obtained on the basis of H. rhamnoides ssp. mongolica are the most popular in the world and widely spread in different countries. Most likely that some approaches we use here could be successfully implemented in many other regions of the world.

Let’s get started.

So, if you think that final success of sbt plantation depends mainly on varieties choosing – you are wrong. In contemporary world the role of technology approaches is much higher compare to variety. There are so many different machines, methods, chemicals, irrigation systems and so on which can increase the basic level of productivity in times. Of course right variety is very important but technology gives you the power to control the variety potentials.

For instance today in Russia we have about 6 thousand hectares of industrial sbt plantations. How many tons of berries do you think we obtain from these areas? OK, I will tell you – about 5-6 thousand tons. It means that the productivity is about 1 t/ha. Not too much you know… If you will take a look to description of the Lisavenko Institute’s varieties (on this site we specially do not indicate this parameter, but you can find it here for instance) you meet the productivity level is from 10 to 25 t/ha. It means 10-25 times higher! Hard to believe… Of course big industrial plantations are hardly provide you by such high productivity but 5-8 tons per hectare are absolutely reasonable figures.

What we should do to obtain such moderate results?

First and the most crucial requirement is a high quality of planting material. It is absolutely important parameter for establishing high level plantation. Quality requirements to sbt plant material we have already described on this site and you will be able find it here. Actually it is strictly recommended to establish seabuckthorn plantations by two year plants material. But of course any time you have several options depending on your resources and plant material availability.

Seabuckthorn can grow only on the open territories with no shade. For industrial plantation it is unnecessary remark but for amateur gardeners it is important to planting sbt on the open spots with no trees or any kind of buildings.

But what much more important for industrial plantations that is a type of soil where you are going to establish sbt orchard. According to many papers seabuckthorn can grows in different kinds of soils. But it prefers sandy grounds and do not like heavy one. It easy explained by the fact that seabuckthorn needs air nitrogen for its own development due to so called root nodules which transform atmospheric nitrogen to available form for plants. On sandy soils roots aeration is more available compare to heavy loam for instance. That is why seabuckthorn develops better on sandy grounds. And that is why it is very important to cultivate the in-row and inter-row spaces in sbt plantation for better root aeration.

Many papers mentioned about high tolerance of sbt to salty soils… They refer to natural seabuckthorn areas along the sea coasts, where it can grows. But according to our experience development of sbt plants on salty soils significantly lower compare to normal one. We do not recommend establish sbt plantation on such kind of lands without preliminary reclamation. Such soils need gypsum treatment, the implementation way of which we will give a bit below…

An extremely important criterion for successful sbt plantation is moderate pH of soil solution – from 6 to 7 points. According to our experience acid soils (pH lower 5.5) are not so suitable for seabuckthorn. It can grows there but development is too week.  Alkaline soils (pH higher than 7.5) are also not so good for seabuckthorn, but last type of soils are quite rare in Russia compare to acid one. It means that before establishing the industrial plantation it is important to carry out the soil analyses. Of course if your soils are acid or alkaline it does not mean that we should forget about seabuckthorn. There are many approaches how to improve your ground by comparatively cheap and easy methods. Lime (or similar types of substances, like dolomite flour, for instance) is absolutely common and conventional method of improving acid soils. How much lime you need to improve 1 hectare of soil? It is easy question… Depending on type of soil and its acidity there 0.5-1.0 kg per m2 is needed. The heavier soil needs more lime. For instance if the type of your soil is heavy loam and pH is 5.0 you need to put in about 0.5 kg, if pH is 4.0 you need to add to your soils 1.0 kg of lime. On sandy loams the amount of lime is 0.25 and 0.5 respectively. In Russian market the price per 1 t of lime for agricultural purpose is about 40 Euro. It means that cost per hectare is calculated from 100 to 400 Euro depending on soil. It is quite reasonable price for successful plantation.

Alkaline and salty soils treated by gypsum or phosphogypsum which is more preferable. It is also not expensive substance (even cheaper compare to lime – 10 Euro per 1 t). The necessary amount of gypsum per hectare is about 3-6 tons depending on pH level and soil type. Approximate cost for such kind of soil reclamation is ranged from 30-60 Euro per hectare. Absolutely reasonable cost!

Soil analyses provide you not only acidity level of course, but many other parameters such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous content. The evaluation methods are different depending on country and type of soil and it is quite difficult to describe all of them. But anyway local laboratories will provide you by necessary information regarding soil fertility, and recommend you the way of its improving.

Honestly we have no reliable investigation regarding proper fertilization protocol for seabuckthorn. The common instructions say that seabuckthorn requests mainly phosphorous and do not need nitrogen and potassium. The explanation for this we can see as follow… Seabuckthorn can obtain nitrogen from the air by the means of root nodules and potassium is usually abundant in most of soils. As regards the rest elements we have no ideas… Sorry.

In another words if your soil is lack in some elements it is a good reason to add them as fertilizer. But you should be more careful with nitrogen. Some experiments regarding high level of nitrogen reveal its negative effect on seabuckthorn susceptibility to fusarium wilt – the main problem of Altai seabuckthorn varieties. Double superphosphate 200 kg/ha is usually enough for seabuckthorn. If you are going to apply potassium, we recommend you chlorine free fertilizers to avoid soil salinization.

The soil preparation is quite common to other horticultural crops and as I see it there is no need to explain it in details. Depth of plowing is about 30-35 cm. Weed control we consider as one of the most important task in this stage of field preparation. The year before planting nonselective systemic herbicides are recommended mainly on the base of glyphosate. It helps to control weeds on the initial stage of plantation and do not show negative affect to sbt plants development.

There are several ways how to plant seabuckthorn seedlings. Mainly they divided into two options – manual and machinery way. Which one to choose is depends on several components. First of all it is scale of plantation. If the field acreage is more than 100 hectares and you are going to establish about 20-30 hectares per year it is reasonable to use special planting machines. There are too many types of them and it is up to you which one to buy. Price on planting machines we consider as reasonable and it ranges from 1500 up to 2000 Euro. Most of such equipment has the same method of planting. Usually it operated by one tractor driver and one or two workers who put seedlings into special section. Nothing difficult and it’s quite convenient. There is no need to make any furrows like during manual planting. Planting efficiency is comparatively high and estimated as about 5-6 hectares per 8 hours.

If the acreage of your plantation does not exceed 20 hectares and you are able to employ 8-12 workers the manual planting will take you 3-5 days and machinery is not so necessary. Of course it is labor expensive technology but you will save 1500 Euro.

The procedure of manual planting is quite simple. Of course we do not propose to dig big holes by shovels per each plant. After plowing and sufficient cultivating of the field just before put the plants in the ground we propose to make a furrows about 25-30 cm of the depth. It can be done by the special furrow makers or ordinary plows. The cultivator equipped by the hiller is also can be used. The group of 4 workers is optimum for manual planting. First one is responsible for putting plants into furrow through necessary intervals between plants. Second one, standing in the furrow raises the plant, positioning it in the straight direction and last two put the ground to the plant by shovels. After that the furrow man compact the soil around the plants by his legs. That’s all. Skilled group of workers (4 people) can establish about 1.5-2.0 hectares per 8 hours depending on planting scheme.

Now we are going to discuss a quite important issue regarding in-row and inter-row distance between plants in industrial seabuckthorn plantation – scheme of planting in another word. And again there is no exact and universal recommendation regarding this issue. Many depend on varieties, technologies and available machineries. Basic scheme is 4 x 2 m. It means in-row distance – 2 m, inter-row – 4 m. Such approach is recommended in earlier Russian technologies and in many European ones. At this scheme 1250 plants per hectare is needed. As for me it is quite reasonable approach for productive industrial plantation.

You should be well aware that several last decades in Altai (Lisavenko Institute) selection of seabuckthorn is directed to decrease the height of sbt bushes to be more convenient for hand picking. Many new varieties are distinguished for compact crown and as a result more dense planting scheme can be considerated. Nowadays we suggest 4 x 1,5 m or 1666 plants per hectare if you establish the plantation by new compact varieties. Four meters inter-row distance is usually enough for cultivating soil in 6-7 years old sbt garden by special horticultural tractors. But sometimes companies have no special tractors for horticulture but only ordinary ones for conventional agriculture. In this case inter-row space should be increased up to 4.5-5.0 m. If the scheme of your plantation is 5 x 1.5 m there 1333 plants are needed. Summarize the above you should choose the proper scheme by yourself depending on your own conditions.

You already know that seabuckthorn is dioecious crop and it needs male and female plant on the field to obtain the berries. Of course the more male plants the better for pollination. But from the point of industry view we should find optimal male/female ratio. And once again it depends on several options. The main of them is male variety. If you have vigorous and pollen abundant variety it is reasonable to decrease the amount of male plants, and opposite if the male variety on your field is moderate growth with moderate pollen capacity the amount should be increased. According to many European recommendations from 10 to 12 per cent of male plants is enough for sufficient pollination. According to our experience based on Altai male varieties the percentage could be reduce a bit up to 6-8%. For vigorous variety Aley we recommend the following layout… Three rows are established by female varieties, the fourth one is planting as combination of male and female plants, where each sixth is male. Such approach provides you by even distribution of male plants through the plantation and as a result predictable pollination. As regards compact growing male variety Gnom we recommend the same approach but only combined row represented by every fifth male plant.

Sometimes it is not convenient to establish combined male/female row. In this case complete male row is recommended. It planted after 8-10 female rows. Of course such layout is not so reliable from the point of view of pollination especially if wind one way directed. But in case of harvesting by mechanical cutting for instance this method is highly recommended.

And what about the terms of planting? Which period is more appropriate for establishing of seabuckthorn plantation? First of all we should understand that seabuckthorn successfully survive both after autumn and spring planting. Autumn terms are preferable for snow territories with no thaws during winter time and for non-irrigation technologies. Spring planting is recommended for the rest group of enterprises. Autumn planting should be finished 10-15 days before permanent frost to make plants take roots. Spring planting recommended as earlier as possible to keep soil moisture. In this regard autumn season is more convenient with no rush and risks of drought.

Does mulching is necessary for seabuckthorn? Of course not… but highly recommended. There are several options of mulching. It could be organic materials like straw, bark or something like that, or synthetic ones like polyethylene film. Both kind of mulch play positive role not only in weed control but water conservation as well. What you choose is depends on your equipment and possibilities. If you have special machinery for film layering – it is your option. Of course it should be done before planting. The technology is quite specific but it significantly helps to control weeds growing. As usual such equipment can both put film on the ground and spread irrigation tubes under this film. It is very convenient if you are going to utilize drop irrigation system. From another hand if you combine horticulture and cereal agriculture with a lot of straw for instance, to use it as mulch – is your option. The main purpose of organic mulch is water conservation. To use it as weed control substance there are lot of straw needed. According to different researches the amount of it in this case is ranged from 3 to 5 kg per square meter. And you should be aware using organic mulch that it has one bottleneck during winter time… it attracts mice. This rodent likes seabuckthorn bark especially of young plants and can significantly damage the plantation. If you keep such kind of mulch on the field for winter time the poisoned baits are recommended.

After planting, especially in spring season irrigation is highly recommended. It is not a secret, that irrigation is most important approach in cultivation of sbt plantation. Depending on variety it can increase productivity up to 3-5 times!!! Some regions have no any chance to cultivate seabuckthorn without irrigating, but some areas with annual precipitations from 300-400 mm and moderate temperature condition can more or less successfully cultivate this crop. For instance in Siberia the precipitation is about 400 mm and most of plantations are without irrigation. The average productivity is about 5-7 t/ha. In Greece, where Altai varieties are cultivated only under irrigation because of too hot climate during summer time the mean productivity is 10-15 tons per hectare in some cases up to 20-25 tons. The main difference between Siberia and Greece is the acreage of plantations. In Siberia they start from 100 up to 500-800 hectares, in Greece 2-3 hectares not more. Of course to irrigate 100 hectares is much more difficult compare to watering of 2-3 hectares. But with no doubts intensification of seabuckthorn industry needs irrigation for sure.

What kind of irrigation to use? The most favorable for seabuckthorn plants is sprinkle systems. But they are most water and power consuming. Recommended amount of water per one irrigation is 200-400 m3/ha depending on soil (on sandy soils 200 m3, on heavy loams – 400 m3). Usually 2-3 irrigation per year are requested. Using such kind of irrigation we waste a lot of water for moistening inter-row space, especially on young plantation. It costs a lot, and besides provokes the intensive weed growth. In the case if you are looking for highly effective way of irrigation you should think about drop irrigation. Usually it more expensive during installation, but water saving as well as lower power consumption make this technology much more effective.

Of course if you have only several hectares of sbt plantation the irrigation from any kinds of tanks is possible. The volume of requested water is ranged from 10-15 l/plant for young orchards up to 40-50 l/plant for 5-6 years old ones. If the plantation scheme is 4 x 1.5 m there are only 25-80 m3 of water per hectare is needed. To compare this volume with sprinkle irrigation for instance we realize that the water requested for such method is 5-9 times lower. However the convenience of such approach is not so high and in the case of big plantation is mostly inappropriate.

Next and dramatically important approach in seabuckthorn cultivating technology is a weed control. To compare weed control and irrigation importance in different climate conditions I would say that the first one is dominating in moderate climate and two of them have the same importance in dry climate. Seabuckthorn can’t stay under weed shadow especially during young age. There about 3-4 hand weeding are requested per year for sufficient weed control. It is labor consuming approach but absolutely necessary. Depending on weeds level and workers qualification it needs about 25-30 men-hours/ha per one weeding. Totally – 100-120 men-hours/ha per year. Before plantation establishing ones should be ready for such men power consumption.

Another option - is chemical weed control. There are not enough investigations in this direction, but theoretically some herbicides which control monocotyledonous weeds can successfully apply on seabuckthorn because of its dicotyledonous nature. Some specialists do not recommend herbicides on seabuckthorn connecting it with increased susceptibility to wilt. But it is under debate and concern mainly Russian seabuckthorn varieties.

You also can use special in-row cultivators but in this case you need to install some kind of sticks near each plant to prevent their damage by devices especially on young plantation. Such kind of technology is most recommended for big plantations where man labor is not possible.

Pests and diseases control is absolutely important part of sbt cultivation technology, but because of vast amount of harmful organism this part of technology needs special pages. Maybe bit later we will reveal some approaches in this direction.

But now we have to move to the most problematic part of industrial seabuckthorn cultivation… Yes, it is harvesting. If you are going to establish sbt plantation in Russia the only recommended harvesting way at the moment is hand picking. Of course there some options are exist like branch cuttings for instance. But for Russian cultivars this approach is not completely investigated and according to preliminary results plants can survive only after 4-5 harvesting. Biggest disadvantage of this method is every next year harvesting. Moreover the productivity of plantations at the second year after cutting is significantly lower compare to conventional way of harvesting.

Selective branch cutting we consider as alternative way of harvesting. Such approach implies not complete cutting but only several branches (about 30-40% of total). This method needs high skilled workers who completely understand which branch should be cut and which should be remain for the next year. As usual there is mostly impossible to have significant amount of such workers, that is why this approach is not widely recommended. Another disadvantage of selective cutting is moderate efficiency which considered only double higher compare to conventional hand picking.

Direct combine harvesting is practically impossible on seabuckthorn. Tear off force is too high to separate berries from branches by shaking. To separate seabuckthorn berries high frequency is needed which provokes branches damages followed by drought of the bushes.

Of course some positive results in breeding of seabuckthorn varieties relatively suitable for direct combine harvesting are exist. But first of all most of them are varieties under selection (not propagated cultivars), and secondly these varieties can be recommended only in young age of plants. It means that anyway if you decided to establish sbt plantation in Russia you should find the workers who will collect the berries. Approximately two skilled harvesters will be able to pick up 1 hectare of productive plantation. If the workers use special harvesting equipment there about 100-120 kg of berries per 8 hours is absolutely reasonable figures. In the case of different ripening-period varieties the harvesting season lasts about 30-40 days, which means 3-4 tons of berries per one worker. In Russia the labor cost for such activity is range from 0.3 to 0.5 US dollars per kg. According to this figures the high skilled worker is able to earn up to 2000 US dollars per one and a half month. For Russian reality it’s quite a few money.

But of course if you read this page in English, it means that you are not from Russia… And if you are going to establish plantation more than 10 hectares in Europe, for instance, the only recommended way for harvesting is branch cutting. There are several machines for direct cutting have been designed, but also manual cutting is widely used. After freezing the branches usually by liquid nitrogen the berries are easy separated by shaking machines. Plantation is harvested every second year and it is reasonable price for lack of available season workers. It is common way for harvesting in Europe, where their own varieties are used and climate conditions permit to recover productivity of the plantations every second year.

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Yury Zubarev