Case study: the Slovak farm Krakovany is not afraid of rising diesel and fertiliser prices

Ing. Vaclav Kurel
May 21, 2023
Regenerative agriculture

Foreign studies claim that regenerative agriculture is more profitable than conventional farming. But is it possible to achieve similar results in the Central European region?

In the Slovakian farm Krakovany, these conclusions were clearly confirmed – because significantly lower costs play a major role. Diesel consumption at the Krakovany farm, where Robert Dohál and his team have been farming regeneratively for ten years, is almost a third of the average consumption in Slovakia. In addition, when growing corn for grain, they do so without fertilizers and achieve average yields for the region.

In the US, regenerative farmers make a significantly higher profit margin

Regenerative farming has become most widespread in the United States. As a result, a large-scale study comparing the profitability of conventional and regenerative farming practices in maize production could be carried out there. The results, published in 2018, showed that regenerative farmers produced 29% less production but 78% higher profit margin compared to conventional farmers. It also showed that the profit made was positively correlated with the amount of organic matter in the soil and not with the yields achieved.

Two years later Soil  Health Institute in its study mapped the results of 100 farms that had converted to regenerative farming. 85% of maize producers declared higher profits. On average, they made a profit of 129 USD/ha. The authors further state that there is a large scope for increasing agricultural profits in the US by further developing this practice, as 37% of farms in the US now practice no-till and only 5% of farms grow intercrops.

The higher profits are mainly due to significantly lower costs. Regenerative farming minimizes all chemical inputs and reduces tractor passes. At the same time, some farmers achieve higher returns due to the higher selling price of the produce and additional returns from practices such as the use of cover crops for grazing cattle.

A case study from Slovakia

The Krakovany Farm, thanks to the initiative taken by its leader Mr. Robert Dohal, started practicing regenerative farming 10 years ago on his entire area of about 680 ha. At that time, the cooperative was losing money and, according to Mr. Dohal, did not even have money to pay salaries. However, with his arrival and the beginning of the integration of the basic principles of regenerative agriculture, the situation began to change significantly. Today, their economic performance is excellent and they do not have to worry about extreme weather conditions.  

Drought, torrential rains and adverse weather conditions, the factors behind soil erosion and degradation, do not really affect them. Thanks to regenerative agriculture, they have much more resilient and compact soil. Mr. Dohál adds: "The humus content of the soil has increased by 0.83 percentage points in 10 years. We have not had any erosion in all this time, whereas our neighbors' soil suffers erosion almost every year, and last year even more than once during the year. However, our soil has increased its water retention capacity by at least six times in 10 years. "As a result, the rainfall from their fields does not run off and always soaks into the soil.  

In Krakovany, they are not too worried about the rising prices of fertilizers, pesticides and diesel. Compared to conventional farmers, they consume significantly less. They have gradually switched from conventional tillage to regenerative tillage. Thus, they strictly do not plough and, in addition, have incorporated intercropping as one of their practices. By covering the soil with vegetation, intercrop mixtures and post-harvest residues all year round, their soil is full of life, fertile and resilient.

And what results do they achieve in Krakovany? For the sake of illustration and comparability with the American example, we will present the profitability data for grain maize cultivation. In 2021, the Krakovany Farm sowed 202 ha of maize and achieved the usual yield of 10 tonnes/ha. Moreover, they did without fertilizers. Mr. Dohál also shared his other costs with us, so we could make a simple comparison of the gross margin between their farm and a conventionally farmed farm in their region. We converted the results per hectare. This comparison clearly shows that with a typical yield of 10 tonnes of maize, Krakovany achieves a 25% higher gross margin.

This confirms the conclusion of the American farmers' research in Slovakia. Regenerative farming returns the soil to its natural fertility, while at the same time bringing higher profits and going hand in hand with an increase in soil resistance to erosion.

Robert Dohál managed to build a relatively young team that believed in his intention to do things differently. The excellent results of the cooperation, not only the economic ones, make him and us happy today. They are a local example of the effectiveness of the regenerative farming method with a uniquely long experience in this country, which can be an inspiration to all farmers.

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