When are Soviet Fields In-Season or Out-of-Season in Crossfire?

I was talking to Dick Bryant about my SU-76i in 1902nd SAP – A Crossfire Scenario. He’d noticed that is was quite hard to defend this terrain because the fields of fire were limited by the in-season fields. Dick suggested making the fields out-of-season. The question is, would Soviet fields actually be in-season or out-of-season in Aug-Sep?

The question – are crops in or out of season in the Ukraine in Aug-Sep?

It was the map for my draft SU-76i in 1902nd SAP Crossfire Scenario that sparked this train of thought.


SU76i Map

Map produced in CC2
Click on the map to the full size version

As you can see, there are lots of fields. The setting was the USSR in Aug-Sep 1943, i.e. just after Battle of Kursk and slightly to the west. Despite being from New Zealand I’ve got little farming exposure, so I assume that in Aug-Sep fields would in-season. My thinking went something like “Late in the year. Before winter. About harvest time. Must be full grown crops.”

That decision makes a huge difference to how this particular game plays. In his play test Dick found:

The problem was that the defenders could not bring the advancing attacker under fire because of the limited visibility. The Attacker found an uncovered avenue and there were several and simply ran across the table. The defender couldn’t get enough initiatives to move to counter.

Dick suggest making the fields out-of-season. So, of course, I immediately thought “Late in the year. About harvest time. Full grown crops.” and replied “nope”. However, a few minutes later I reconsidered. As I said I’m not a farming type so, frankly, how would I know?

Time for some research to answer a couple of questions:

  • are crops in or out of season in the Ukraine in Aug-Sep?
  • when were crops in or out of season in the Soviet Union

A strange place for a wargamer to end up. Researching Soviet agricultural patterns. But needs must.

The short answer

Ukrainian and Russian fields are legitimately “in-season” during June to August. Wheat, the major grain crop, would then be “out-of-season” from mid to late August. Ditto for Barley, the second major grain crop.

Other crops, like corn and sunflower, would be in-season for a similar period but a bit later in the year, about August to October.

So, for my SU-76i in 1902nd SAP Crossfire Scenario set in Aug-Sep, the fields could be in-season or out-of-season. But more likely out-of-season.

Now for those who want some gripping Soviet agricultural detail …

Wheat

Firstly, no part of the Russia has a year-round growing season (Glenn, 1996, Russian Climate). Secondly, winter wheat is the biggest crop.

Wheat is cultivated as either a winter crop or a spring crop. Winter wheat is planted over a 3 month period depending on the latitude, from August in the north to late October in the south (Agriculture in Russia). Planting of spring wheat, actually all spring grains, begins in April in the south and moves north; most occurs in May and concludes in June. The wheat harvest (and barley) begins in the south in late June and moves north. Harvest operations are in full swing by early July and largely finished by mid-to-late August.

A lot of the Russian grain crop remains unharvested each year due to unfavourable climate (Agriculture in Russia). 10% of the area planted to spring wheat and 97% of the country’s winter wheat area are abandoned. In the Ukraine destroyed winter fields are reseeded with Barley (Crop production in Ukraine)

I adapted the diagram of Wheat Growth Stages from The Wheat Growth Guide Spring 2008, second edition to include typical heights at various times. Wheat is more or less at it’s maximum height for 2-3 months.

Winter Wheat Growth Cycle

Winter Wheat Growth Cycle

Other crops

Of the spring grains, oats are sown first, followed by wheat, then barley in April to June (Agriculture in Russia). Grain harvest begins in late August and continues through October.

Summer crops such as corn and sunflowers are the last to be planted concluding by late May or early June (Agriculture in Russia). Corn and sunflower harvest begins in September and continues through October.

Glenn (1996) explains a few facts about Russian Agriculture:

  • 10% of the Russia’s total land area is under agriculture because of climatic or geographical limitations
    • 6% (60% of the 10%) is used for crops
    • 4% is used for pasture and meadow
    • The 10% rises to 65% of the in the most productive land in the European part of Russia, i.e. the Central Chernozem Economic Region and the Volga Economic Region, in the grasslands between Ukraine and Kazakstan
  • 50% of cropland are used for grains
    • Wheat is dominant in most grain-producing areas
      • Winter wheat is cultivated in the North Caucasus
      • Spring wheat in the Don Basin, in the middle Volga region, and in southwestern Siberia
    • Barley comes second to wheat in gross yield and is grown
      • mainly for animal feed and beer production
      • in colder regions as far north as 65° north latitude (the latitude of Arkhangel’sk) and well into the highlands of southern Siberia
    • Production of oats was ranked third when horses were used in farming operations
  • Potatoes, a vital crop for food and for the production of vodka, are grown in colder regions between 50° and 60° north latitude.

Russian Animal Husbandry

Okay, it has nothing to do with fields, but while I’m about it Glenn (1996, Russian Agriculture) mentions:

Cattle are the most common form of livestock except in the drier areas, where sheep and goats dominate. The third-largest category is pigs, which are raised in areas of European Russia and the Pacific coast that offer grain, potatoes, or sugar beets as fodder. Only very small numbers of chickens are kept.

Ukraine

Crop production in Ukraine
Ukraine comprises three zone:

  • Farms in Ukraine employ a variety of crop-rotation schemes, some including four or more crops, some only two
  • A six-year crop rotation will often include two consecutive years of wheat and one season of “clean fallow,” during which no crop is sown.
  • Forest zone (19%)
    • Forest (30%), hay (10%), pasture (8%)
    • Winter Rye planted in September, harvested in July
    • Buckwheat planted early June, harvested early August to late September
    • Flax planted early April, and harvested mid July
    • Potatoes
      • planted late April to early May, harvested late August to early September
      • About 14% of potatoes in the Ukraine are grown on small private gardens
  • Forest-prairie zone (33%)
    • Agricultural land (70%)
    • Winter wheat (30%)
      • About 95% of Ukraine wheat
      • planted in the September to November and harvested during July and August of the following year
    • Sugar beet and sunflower (11%)
      • Sugar Beets are planted in late April and early May and harvested from mid-September through the end of October
      • Sunflowers are typically planted in April and harvested from mid-September to mid-October
    • Corn (10%)
      • Corn is typically planted in late April or early May. Harvest begins in late September and is usually nearing completion by early November
      • Only 25 to 50 percent of total corn area is harvested for grain; the rest is cut for silage, usually in August.
    • Barley (8%)
      • Spring barley is typically planted in April and harvested in August
      • Spring barley is the crop most frequently used for spring reseeding of damaged or destroyed winter-grain fields
  • Prairie zone (48%)

References

Glenn, E. C. (Ed.) (1996). Russia: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress.

Particularly Agriculture and Climate.

HGCA (2008, Spring). The Wheat Growth Guide Spring 2008, second edition. Author.

Rogovska, N. (n.d.). Crop production in Ukraine.

Wikipedia: Agriculture in Russia

5 comments to When are Soviet Fields In-Season or Out-of-Season in Crossfire?

  • Chris Montgomery

    You know, Stephen, it might be fun to have a randomized number of in-season and out-of-season fields . . . you’d just have to designate them on the scenario map, and then roll a d6 for each numbered field. This would add variety from play-to-play and affect the defensive set-up.

  • Chris Montgomery

    Forgot to check the notify box. A second post for that. Sorry.

  • Tim Kohler

    Winter Wheat – In Britain this is a post war feature, prior to that, and presumably in Russia in the 1940s, it would be spring sown wheat, which may well have been harvested later rather than earlier. However I would have thought they would be harvested by the end of Sept., but not in Aug. Also older varieties of wheat are longer stemed than modern varieties, so would provide more cover. However still substantially less than the hight of an AFV, but perhaps almost as tall as a man. Arable crops (as well as what varieties are grown) have changed massivly since the War. Modern text-books and references must be considered poor indicators of the historic practice in this area. I seem to remember that the Ukraine have various harvest festivals conected with wheat/bread, historic dates of those might give a better indication of harvest time. Hope that helps!

Leave a Reply