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Turkey’s female pharmacist-farmer

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A woman who runs a farm in Turkey and is also a graduate pharmacist: Özden Karaevli’s unusual background makes her supremely qualified to understand the chemistry of agriculture. And how has this expertise helped her tackle the weed resistance issue?

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. 

Difficult climate

Kyimet (left) and Özden (right) taking a selfie in the field. 

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.”

 

“Coming from a farming family and with my knowledge of chemistry I have an advantage in this respect.”

– Özden Karaevli

A farming community challenge

Farmers in Özden’s village spend their free time in the local coffee shop. Özden sometimes joins them. “They are usually talking about farming and crop protection products. There’s a high awareness of weed resistance among my fellow-farmers and we’re always getting support from Bayer experts in weed control and innovative solutions. Here, my pharmaceutical background is of great help.” Özden has a smile on her face as she relates what the men in the café call her: “the woman the village belongs to”. And that’s surely not just because the village bears her family name. 

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