Our arable activities cover three main areas.
Maize, or corn, is a large grain plant harvested for the ears which grow on a long, leafy stalk. Sugar-rich varieties, like sweet corn, are grown for human consumption, with field corn varieties used for animal feed and as chemical feedstocks.
Maize is usually sowed in the spring, (at Mačva this is done in the second half of April) with the seedlings producing leaves in the first two or three weeks after sowing. The full-grown plant can reach some 2.5m in height, with the ears developing within husks which appear above a few of the leaves in the mid-section of the plant.
Once pollenated by the 'tassel' or male flowers at the top of the stem, the stigmas, or 'silks' at the end of the ear will go on to form the kernel, which grows to become the 'corn cob', a mass of pea-sized grains around a white pithy core. 'Sweet corn' is harvested in the 'milk stage' between late summer and mid-autumn, while field maize is left to dry as grain and may not be picked until winter or early spring.
Maize can be used for a large range of products, beyond the simple corn cob, tinned sweet corn, cornflour and corn oil. Dry mills ground, crush and roll maize meal for use as animal feed and ethanol fuel, while wet mills steep the grain in water before separating it into fibre and gluten (mostly used for animal feeds), the germ (processed into oil), and starch, which has many industrial applications, as does corn steep liquor, another by-product of this process.
Our most sizeable crop, and the world's third most cultivated cereal after maize and rice, wheat is grown on more hectares than any other global crop, and as a commodity accounts for more world trade than all other crops put together.
Varieties of wheat can be classified in a number of ways. According to their growing season, for example, so they can be 'winter wheat' or 'spring wheat'. (Here at Mačva we sow our wheat by mid-late October.)
Also by their protein content, which depends on the quantity and quality of the wheat gluten, which helps to make a wheat dough elastic. 'Harder' or 'stronger' wheats, with a higher gluten content, are used for traditional bread-making because they trap more air in the rising process. While 'softer' wheats, with less gluten, are used for making cakes and biscuits.
The quality of gluten is also important. For pasta a strong but inelastic gluten, typical of durum wheats, is required, which will not prevent the pasta being rolled into thin sheets.
Wheat can also be classified by the colour of the grain, which can be red, white or amber.
The final crop, whether Hard White, or Soft Red Winter, is a major ingredient, as flour, bran or grains, in a wide variety of foods, found in almost every aisle of the supermarket.
As a legume, the Soya Bean, or Soybean, performs a valuable role in our crop rotation. Through bacteria in its root nodules it converts, or 'fixes', atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia for retention in the soil. Providing a natural source of this important fertiliser for whatever crop that follows it.
The plant can reach 0.2m to 2.0m in height, with the pods growing in clusters of three to five, each containing two to four seeds about 5mm to 11mm in diameter.
With a 20% oil content, the soya bean is classed as an oilseed, and is also notable for its high protein content of 38% to 45%. Consequently, it is a valuable world commodity, both as a vegetable oil and as a food supplement.
The oil can be further refined, into edible and hydrogenated oils ('shortening'), while the soya bean meal, left after the oil is extracted, is an important animal feed ingredient.
Soya flour, produced by roasting then grinding the bean, has many applications for human as well as animal consumption, in a range of fat levels, as isolates and concentrates, or often as textured vegetable protein.
Traditional food uses for the fermented bean include soy sauce, while unfermented it makes the basis of soya milk and tofu.