Turkey’s female pharmacist-farmer
For five generations Özden Karaevli’s family has been farming land in a village in Tekirdağ (Thrace) Province on the northern shores of the Marmara Sea. The village is also called Karaevli, but more of that later. Before starting work on the family farm 15 years ago, Özden had an unusual career. She studied pharmacy and after graduating lived in Germany for three years while researching her PhD and working in a Marburg pharmacy. As she now lives in Istanbul about 100 km from her family farm, she’s not only pharmacist-farmer but also a commuter-farmer. “Although I was a pharmacist for a while, I always had farming on my mind,” Özden says. “I returned to farming after raising my children up to a certain age and gladly took over the farm from my father. I’m the first female farmer in my family history.” Maybe this represents a new trend in view of today’s rapid transformation of agriculture.
On her 250 hectares of clayey-loamy soils Özden grows winter wheat, sunflowers and canola. “I grow winter wheat and canola because they are more profitable crops than other alternatives. And sunflowers are important for crop rotation purposes. All my produce is sold on the domestic market,” Özden says. The climatic conditions in Tekirdağ Province are far from easy: irregular rainfall, hail and drought are just some of the problems. “Every year we have different climatic conditions,” she explains. “I’ve never seen the same conditions for two consecutive years, which makes farming difficult. We do our sowing in winter because it is more advantageous than in spring.” And it’s not just the weather that makes farming difficult in this region. Diseases, pests and weed resistance are serious challenges as well.
Broadening weed resistance issues
The main weed resistance problem Özden faces is ryegrass (Lolium rigudium), which first appeared in her wheat fields in 2012. But two years later, a second problem cropped up: wild oats (Avena spp.). And that was not all. Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) and stinking chamomile (Anthemis cotula) also raised their unwanted heads along with wild radish (Raphanus aphanistrum) in her canola fields. Özden initially applied Axial (Pinoxaden) to control ryegrass and wild oats but by 2015 it was no longer proving effective. For the past two years she has been using Kelt® (Pyroxasulfone 85 WG) and is “very satisfied with this product”, she now confirms. “Coming from a farming family and with my knowledge of chemistry I have an advantage in this respect. But particularly as a pharmacist-farmer I know it’s only possible to find effective solutions against weed resistance if we use a smart combination of chemical crop protection products, cultural practices and crop rotation. On my land crop rotation is fundamental in order to tackle weed resistance.”