Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Hillary Clinton is in town…

…for the weekend apparently and can’t you just tell, they have ramped up security to epic proportions. The Boys in Blue (and beige as some have opted for the summer uniform look) are absolutely everywhere.

Wheat disease latest

I stumbled on the first pustules of brown rust (Puccinia triticina - Бурая ржавчина) in a local crop of wheat yesterday - local as in “not mine” and “probably had no fungicides or nothing of any note”.

There was not much about but it was there.

To be honest I thought it had been too hot for the disease to develop but it goes to show that it is out and about and fungicides are justified.

Caught in the act

Here's our friend the Cockchaffer doing his impersonation of a city trader with a load of suspicious white stuff all over his fizzog.

We didn't spray for them in the end and although they are partial to the odd grain of wheat the amount of damage is minimal and certainly would not have justified getting the sprayer out.
Besides, I've grown to like them and have enjoyed observing their antics over the last month.

Combines ready to roll

Oilseed rape is just about there and our first combines will make a start this weekend. The weather is changeable with heavy thunderstorms threatening the brittle pods.

Latest price is 2600-2800 UAH (270-290 EUR) off the combine but is predicated to rise substantially.

Little known fact; sunflowers face away from the sun...

...and turn their backs as the sun moves across the sky. Bet you didn’t know that.

They are just starting to come into flower and look right pretty too. No signs of stress or disease.

Japan out…

So much for my prediction but they did get further than England.

Monday, 28 June 2010


Let’s face it England are just not as good as they think they are. The qualifying games were shocking and last night was woeful. Hang your heads in shame lads, you was crap.

Japan are looking good, still my outside favourites.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Crop update; winter wheat

Wheat is turning and generally looks good, weed and disease levels are low.

The crop is quite tall this year and some lodging has already taken place particularly on the headland where fertiliser was overlapped. I don’t anticipate that this will be a problem unless we see some serious weather over the next two to three weeks.

You can still see patches where the crop was killed off during the winter; I would estimate that where this does occur it accounts for between 5 and 20% of the crop in any given field. The patches appear where melt water pooled and refroze back in late January early February. Fields on slopes have in general faired better as melt water failed to collect.

Cockchafers and Thrips about, some people out spraying for these, I probably won’t bother.

Back in the Office

Back from my brief tour around the crops in eastern and central Ukraine.

I thought I was going to miss the England game but found myself in a Ukrainian farm director’s office fifteen minutes after kick off. There was a telly in the corner so I politely asked if it was ok to put the footie on while we had our meeting. “No problem” he said, “great” I thought, all I had to do was to keep him talking for 90 minutes and I was going to see the game all the way through.

I spent the next hour and half talking to this guy, half listening to his answers, trying to think up another question that would keep him talking, while all the time following the game over his left shoulder on a turned down, snowy pictured TV sat in the far corner.

Who says men can’t multi task?

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Out of office

You know where the back of beyond is? Well I will be about a days Yak ride from there!

I will be out of the office and out of civilisation for the next four to five days so no blogging but I hope to have plenty of information on my return. I hope to follow the footie while away.


Probably best if I don't say anything at the moment.

You want kartofel fries with that?

I popped in to McDonalds for a take away coffee this afternoon, I was meeting someone off the train and had a half hour spare. Maccy D's is somewhere I normally avoid like the clap, a terrible, terrible concept, but with nice toilets. While waiting for my brew I witnessed a clash of cultures.

Your average Ukrainian has the patience of a two year old on Red Bull, unless youre off when the lights go to green like Lewis Hamilton fighting for the championship the guy behind will be on the horn quicker than you can say "dasvedanya". Stand in any queue and the person behind will be pushing you in a way that would be taken as sexual harassment anywhere else in the world.

I know a lot of Ukrainian friends and colleagues read this stuff and I know they won’t get offended because they know it’s true!

In Ronalds restaurant you literally had an army of burger flippers and the brain dead throwing what passes for food out at the punters at a rate of knots unprecedented outside Ukraine. It truly was impressive to see. But it wasn’t fast enough! “What do you mean I have to wait thirty seconds for six big macs and coke, can’t you do it quicker?”, the level of intensity was actually frightening.

The fastest food I have ever seen but it still wasn’t fast enough.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Crop prices will rise between 16% to 40%!

Fantastic news! It was on the BBC so it must be true! “What’s the catch?” I hear you say, well there are probably two catches if truth be told.

I’m taking the UK as an example here but these trends hold true for farming in general.

If you look at farm incomes over the last four decades there is a downward trend.

The peak in the mid nineties was the introduction of subsidies designed to offset CAP policy changes that was supposed to have reduced the market price, when what actually happened was the global price lifted at the same time farmers received their bung from Brussels. Politicians really should learn to stop meddling in the market place.

The rise at the end of the chart is down to how DEFRA calculate farm incomes which now includes diversification projects i.e. not conventional farming so I suspect the true trend is further down.

So, any rise in prices has to be set against a background of four decades of declining farm incomes.

If further evidence was needed have a look at the farm products index for the last two decades.

Farmers today are essentially getting 1989 prices. And if you look closely you will see that input prices generally keep in line with what you’re getting paid, which is the second catch.

Crop prices will increase it’s a certainty; the law of supply and demand will, well, demand it. But so will input costs – everyone will want a slice of the good times – so margins will remain as difficult to reach with a 16% to 40% increase in prices as they are now.

The farmer as always will take the burden of the work and the risk and the lowest margin out of the supply chain.


Agro 2010

I found time to have a quick walk around the 22nd International Exhibition – Agro 2010 that’s on in Kiev all this week.

The usual array of farm machinery and stands selling hydraulic hoses and oil filters on display and I have to admit to being bored rigid until I stumbled upon Daisy, the mutant cow, look closely. She made me smile for all of twenty seconds but she did brighten up an otherwise dreary show.


Nodules are forming on the roots and the plants are about two to three trifoliate leaves.

Bentazone works well on volunteer sunflowers although some of the bigger plants look like they might grow through the effects of the herbicide and survive, time will tell.

So that’s why they are called Cockchaffers!

When the temperature gets above 20 degrees Celsius the adult female matures and is ready for a bit of how’s your father. The adults will eat the soft developing grain but these guys were too busy to bother.

Where they are present they are in high numbers but very localised and rarely much further than 20 meters in to the crop.

Dimethoate seems to be the only thing that will touch them but as they are very localised, seemingly too busy to eat anything and bearing in mind that dimethoate is an OP and will take out pretty much everything else in it’s sights I thought it’s probably best to leave them to it.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Crop Update

Back from the farms with a quick update:

Wheat looking clean, will be leaving out earwash as crop at medium to late milk stage and weather set to remain hot;

Oilseed rape still looking clean (well ours is), starting to change colour to a lighter shade of green with seeds still bright green, will start desiccating in seven to ten days. Rape seed E334/t August delivery in Paris on back of Canadian wet spring;

Sunflowers 30-70cm, looking good - what an easy crop to grow, sow, fert, spray and grow;

Soya struggling against weeds as wet May has encouraged a significant flush that is testing the herbicides;

Maize similar to soya.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Out of office

Off to the farms for a day or two, need to assess ear wash and insecticide on wheat, desiccant on oilseed rape and the last of the herbicides on soya. Before you know it the combines will be rolling. Note to self – must go on holiday before harvest starts!

Monday, 14 June 2010

Experts say the biggest obstacle to development of Ukraine’s promising agriculture sector is the continuing moratorium on the sale of farmland

Another article on the land moratorium debate (here) with the predictable and oft quoted line that the lack of land ownership is holding back agricultural development in Ukraine.

That’s a very simplistic view and personally one I don’t buy. There are many and varied reasons why agriculture in Ukraine isn’t developing as fast as some would like; whether you own the land or not is not one of them.

How many farms actually own the land they farm in Western Europe? Less than you would imagine. In the UK most of it is owned by the Church of England, pension groups and equity funds, the MoD and a small number of super wealthy land owners and it doesn’t seem to be an obstacle to farming there.

Critics argue that the ban on land sales stops investors sinking money in to developing land that they don’t own. Apart from normal agricultural practice of applying fertiliser and lime, deep cultivations and perennial weed control what else would you do to develop land? Sure you need to invest in infrastructure and machinery but you need to do this regardless of land ownership issues. Plus if land is made available for sale then the price will (eventually) rise and you’ll have less cash to put in to grain stores, buildings, tractors and combines.

I reckon the real reason that the moratorium is seen as such an issue by “experts” is the real money is to be made in land sales.

News from the zoos

The ongoing story of mysterious deaths at the zoo doesn’t appear to be going away with the Kyiv Post issuing a league table of who died and when.

The World Cup so far...

None of the teams I have seen look particularly hot apart that is the Germans who as always appeared clinical, precise and menacing and they have a crap team to boot. That's the thing about the Germans even when they are crap they are still good!

Admittedly it’s only the opening games and perhaps teams are being cautious but England looked lost with poor passing and basic errors and I’m not talking about the goalkeeper. And is it me or are the majority of spot kicks and crosses going sky high?

Weather update

Another hot day ahead, the thermometer is already reading 30 degrees at 10am. Crops are not looking too stressed yet as soils are still moist at depth although it won't be long as plants are transpiring at full rate. Rain forecast today and tomorrow which I suspect will be localised summer downpours.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Three Lions on my shirt

The world cup is finally here; sixty one world class matches over the next four and half weeks, glorious!

I will be watching the opening game at home but we have booked in to a proper French restaurant with a proper French owner and proper French food an’ all for the Uruguay v France match this evening.

Naturally we are supporting Uruguay and will be winding up our Gauloises smoking, Pernod drinking, sheep burning cousins at every opportunity throughout the game.

Vive la Uruguay!

Weather update

Current weather in Kiev is hot and sunny, the thermometer is reading 30 degrees at 11am this morning and the forecast is for a weekend of 30 degrees plus with blue skies and showers coming in from the west early next week.

Cereals 2010

Just got back from visiting Cereals and very useful it was too, if you’ve never been I would highly recommend it. A couple of things struck me as I wandered around the show.

Based on the amount of stands selling shiny new stuff and services British agriculture looks pretty affluent; how can you not make money when you have all that reliable advice and independent research at your finger tips? Recommended lists, how I wish for that. We have to choose varieties based on information from the seed producer and having a look at plots in the ground and saying subjective things like “it looks pretty good dunnit”.

The second thing that struck me was the amount of business selling quality assurance and food security services and equipment. UK farmers are told that they have to have all these measure in place to show due diligence on things like mycotoxins otherwise no one will buy their grain. Yet we all know that UK buyers will take a ship load of grain from countries such as Ukraine which has no such assurance, traceability or security in place and are unlikely to in the near or long future. I would reconsider my NFU subs if I was you.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Ukraine travel advice

I left blue skies and 20+ degrees this morning to arrive in London and it's raining!

I put my passport in the washing machine earlier in the week and all the Ukraine stamps had disappeared. Yuriy at passport control was not happy, he said I had to go to the bank and pay a $100 fine. That was at 7am. I stood my ground and in the end he winked and let me through. Top guy and who says corruption is all bad?

Monday, 7 June 2010

Harvest Guesstival #2

The Kiev-based UkrAgroConsult have lifted their best guess to 19.1m tonnes for wheat which is a tad over my guess of last week.

The revision apparently reflected better prospects for wheat following last month rains and decreased winterkill fears but I reckon it’s because they really want that all expenses dinner at the da Vinci Fish Club!


Pioneer has inadvertently sold GM seed maize in Germany where it is currently banned. Over 2000ha of the crop has been planted. I truly pity the poor sales manager, the world must have fallen out of his arse on realising were all that GM maize destined for Brazil had actually gone to, poor bugger. The question is, if it was you, would you have told?

Ahem, GM crops are currently banned in Ukraine too.

Out of office

I'm off to the UK for a couple of days to soak up the pre-world cup atmosphere and I will take the opportunity to visit Cereals while I'm there.

It's been a while since I've been to Blighty; land of fish 'n chips, warm beer, leather on willow, cream teas, grumpy publicans, corrupt politicians, strikes, unemployment, coalition governments, rampant gun crime, economic meltdown and savage foxes!

Something is eating sunflowers

And it’s this little bugger except he ain’t so little.

This is the larvae of Melolontha, more commonly known as Cockchaffer and he is crawling along the rows having a munch on roots and stems of sunflower seedlings before continuing on his destructive way.

We are set to lose about 50% of crop in one 70 hectare field to these chaps and there’s not a lot I can do about it.

They used to eat the adults in 19th century France, remove the legs and wings and sizzle in butter apparently.

Update from the village

Plots are coming along nicely with plenty of people out and about tending their crops.

It’s bit of a novelty growing your own food in the UK, we used to grow a lot of our own fruit and vegetables in the post war years but it fell out of fashion as supermarkets introduced cheap and convenient food. When the oil runs out, which may be fairly soon if BP can’t stop the leak, we will all be growing our own plots once again, at least those of us who can remember how.

Soya update

Weeds are a bit of a problem this spring; the wet, mild weather has encouraged a lot of weed germination with subsequent rapid growth. More so in soya as we wait for the crop to reach two trifoliate leaves so it can shake off the effects of bentazone.

Spraying commenced at the weekend (without a wetter as the company supplying it cocked up, we will be having words) and looks set to continue all week as the forecast is for a settled period ahead.

Fortunately soya produces a canopy pretty quickly so it should hold it's own given a reasonable degree of weed control from the herbicide.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Sunny outlook for sunflowers

I have had a good look at sunflowers and can’t find any disease as was reported earlier in the week. The crops are looking very good, healthy, green and growing away in the sunshine and enjoying the warm weather.

Weed control has been tested to the full this season as regular rain has encouraged weeds to romp away unlike last year when it was very dry at emergence and weeds failed to develop. Herbicides have worked reasonably well and we are using inter row cultivations where we do have weed issues.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

We have grain

And here it is, at the watery ripe to early milk stage (GS71-73) with the anther still visible.

Weather conditions are excellent for the the grain filling process; there is plenty of moisture in the soil and warm, bright days to encourage rapid transpiration.

Warm weather enables flowering to take place quickly which means the glumes are open for a short period of time reducing the time the flower structure is exposed to pathogens such as fusarium sp. The result is we should see less fusarium on the developing ear although I will still go with an ear wash.

Isn't oilseed rape brilliant!

Just got back from another look at the state of play and I am very, very happy with how our oilseed rape is looking.

Who would have thought back in March when this horror show emerged from beneath the snow...

...that by June we would have this bountiful, clean, beautiful looking rape crop?
It is a testament to the powers of recovery of hybrids coupled with excellent management and nerves of steel.

While those all around us wavered, we held our ground and believed; while those all around ploughed, we nurtured; while those all around dropped the nitrogen, we fed our babies and the little beauties have delivered! I flippin' love growing oilseed rape!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Zebra born in Kyiv zoo

Some good news from the zoo for a change, Tuva gave birth to a healthy baby girl on Monday.

Mother and baby doing fine…for now.

The future is in futures

NYSE Euronext is looking for partners to open its grain futures trading floor in Ukraine. They talk of opening at the end of this year. Most welcome news.

June 1st spring planting update

According to the Min of Ag – and I would take these statistics with the due skepticism they deserve - 7.4 million hectares of spring grain and leguminous crops had been sown, apparently that’s 97% of the target. Almost 2.7 million hectares of corn has been sown (99.5% of the target) and 3.8 million hectares of sunflowers (102% of the target).

Target! What target? These guys turn up at the farm from time to time saying things like “you aren’t planting enough maize” and “you have too much oilseed rape in your rotation”. They even have the bloody nerve to ask for petrol money so they can go and inspect our crops. Well, to be blunt, they can feck off.

We - and by we I mean all the free thinking farming business in Ukraine trying to kick start the economy from the bottom up - don’t claim any of the measly subsidies on offer. We don’t operate under a central planning system, we are using private investment, we operate on a free market economy and grow what we think will give us the best return according to market predictions and within constraints of technical and logistical parameters.

Targets my arse!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Smug mode

As oilseed rape prices are firming and our crops are looking absolutely peachy, I feel my decision to look after what we had as it emerged from winter when it looked pants will be vindicated. Even more so on the back of recent reports that the worlds rapeseed production is set to fall for the first time in four years.

It’s reported that output in the EU will fall by 770,000 tonnes to 20.8m tonnes and China's crop dropping by 1m tonnes to 11.8m tonnes.

It’s the EU bit that particularly interests me as they will be looking to Ukraine to make up the shortfall to feed all those shiny new biofuel plants. I told you not to plough it in, that spring wheat looks mighty pitiful now eh?

We will have about 2,000 tons up for grabs in about six weeks; form an orderly queue, no pushing at the back.

This could be a laugh

Victor Yanukovych is to hold press conference this Friday dedicated to his first 100 days in power. The event is scheduled to take place from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm. I guess he’s not planning on giving much time to questions then. May be I should pop along and ask him about the zoo?

Weather update

Our spring sowing campaign is now complete and we have had plenty of moisture to help things along. We are also seeing a higher level of weeds as a result but you can’t have it both ways.

There are still people out and about with large drills, AKA big farms and agri-businesses rather than small scale local farmers, who are still planting maize. This doesn’t surprise me as a) we have had a reasonable amount of rain recently and that will have slowed up drilling operations a bit and b) everyone is dead keen on maize this year and are planting more of the crop.

Weather conditions continue to remain fair with showers and sunshine just about everywhere with it being wetter in the west than the east. The forecast is more of the same for the rest of the week.