Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Sub soiling in the snow

Is it a crackers idea or pure genius?

Sub soiling and deep cultivations hit the headlines in Ukraine this year; well it would have done if I had written the headlines.

Spring this year was wetter than average which did nothing to encourage roots to grow deep looking for water. Added to this is the sub surface compaction that blights most of Ukraine and shallow, lazy rooted spring planted crops like soya and it becomes apparent why yields have been so low this drought year.

Would sub soiling have helped?

The theory being that deep cultivations break up compaction allowing deeper root penetration and these plants are better able to withstand drought conditions than plants growing over compaction with a shallower developed root structure.

Is there any evidence to support this?

I have data on soya grown in central Ukraine over sub soil compacted soil achieving an abysmal 0.7MT/ha and not too far away on land that had been sub soiled achieving yields of 1.5MT/ha.

Some of this uplift might have been down to different agronomy or localised rainfall at key times but surely not all of it.

OK, so let’s assume it was down to better, deeper rooting which was achieved by sub soil and we want to subsoil for the next crop. Wisdom has it that you should sub soil in the summer on dry soils to get the maximum amount of shattering and cracking.

But if we want to plant in the spring we can’t do that so we need to sub soil in the spring when the land is wet and there is a danger of smearing with very little cracking and shattering.

Which eventually brings me to my point.

Assuming you could get a sub soiler in to frozen ground and you had the horses to pull it and assuming it didn’t break; would sub soiling in the winter have a similar effect to sub soiling dry soil in the summer and the frozen, brittle soil crack and shatter in a similar manner?

Anyone want to admit to trying it?

Monday, 29 November 2010


The Kiev emerging middle classes are protesting about a new tax regime recently introduced which targets entrepreneurs and favours the rich.
So much so they have taken to the streets in scenes reminiscent of the Orange Revolution.

Why do Ukrainian revolutions wait until the winter, surely it would be better to revolt in the summer when staying out on the streets all night would be much easier.

Winter is here

Snowing this morning, winter is finally here.

Remember all those people telling me winter was going to arrive in a blaze of furry at the end of October and we should finish drilling early? Well they were wrong.

Saturday, 27 November 2010


Looks like the end of the mild spell, much cooler today, hats and gloves all round.

Reports of snow on the ground in southern Russia and in the UK.

As you would expect UK reporters are using words like "gripped" and "severe" whereas Russian reporters are using words like "winters here then".

Friday, 26 November 2010

How much?

Just been quoted 93,000 EURO for a new 6m Top Down.

Does that seem about right?

And can any one tell me how many horses it needs on light to medium silty clay loams. The book reckons 330 to 400HP which seems a bit excessive on these soils.


Remains mild. This continued warm(ish) spell will help those late drilled crops although there wont be much additional growth as the light intensity and daylength continue to diminish.

I have started to see a few reports suggesting the mild weather might be detrimental to the crops in ground; It's not that warm, get a grip and stop speculating, everything is fine.

You can checkout any time you like, but you can never leave

I have just spent the day trying to close down my internet account with a generally well run and un-Ukrainian like company, Volia.


When I contacted them earlier this year to set up an internet connection they couldn't have been more helpful, nothing was too much trouble and they sent some guys round within twenty four hours to get me on line.


"Don't give the guys any cash" they told me, "pay over the phone and please report to us if they ask for cash" which they didn't.


I couldn't fault the level of service, brilliant, even told me to have a nice day, very unlike Ukraine.


Then I came to close down the account.


You have to return the equipment (modem, set top box, cables etc) to some remote out of the way office bock, spend an hour while Tanya goes through your file, fills in the forms and assess the state of the equipment that you have returned.


Then they charge you for the missing item which included the box! 50UAH that cardboard box cost me.


They obviously didn't want us to leave.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Latest iron quotas

The local administration are the guys that ask us to make up yields and how much land we have combined; they hassle us that we are not ploughing or combining enough or doing it wrong; they threaten us with various “solutions” when we fail to comply with their “requests”, they are the guys that wanted to steal 100MT of grain off us for their strategic reserves.

You get the picture, basically administrators with menace.

This week they wanted to put on a party to recognise the end of harvest and to reward our best tractor drivers and combine drivers with a bun fight and prizes.

Fair enough I thought, although it all sounds a bit old school, a bit soviet.

It’s not as if the local administration had anything to do with what we are doing or had any investment in the business, far from it, all they do is to try and extort money form us so why would they want to credit our guys with doing a good job?

Well no change there then as we had to pay them for the party; we had to give them money so they could buy prizes to present our guys.

What did they present? Irons.

I thought I misheard and it was an iRon, the latest gadget from the Steve Jobs stable but no, it was electric irons.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Ukraine grain export quotas 'cost farmers $1.25bn'

The USDA said "(Ukraine) agricultural producers estimate their losses at over $1.25bn due to restricted export of grain."

And the rest!

If you add the knock on effect of reduced inputs for this next season, the yield reduction as a result, the loss of reputation Ukraine now has as an international grain trader and the number of investors that will now not be investing as a result of the political shenanigans and I reckon the real loss is incalculable.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Ducking hell!

I moved apartment a couple of weeks ago and now live on the gloriously named “Heroes of Stalingrad Street” with some fantastic views across the river Dnieper.

Taking half an hour yesterday afternoon I thought I would go and feed the ducks that I can see from my window.

I have never met such a frightened bunch of ducks in my life. Why won’t you come and eat this flammin’ bread that I’m hurling in to the river?

Then I realised; ducks are caught and eaten by the local human population and see humans as a source of food and death. The poor little buggers thought I was going to catch them and wring their little ducky necks.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

No one likes a free loader

Here are two from the ground as it happens reports on the state of Ukraine crops as they go in to the winter, all absolutely free.

And you don't even have to visit Ukraine where it is very dangerous and smells of soup.

Imagine all the money you have just saved by not going to Ukraine not to mention saving your welfare and sanity.

Go on, do the right thing.

Ukraine autumn agronomy report – oilseed rape

It’s been one hell of a season so far for these poor little guys, drilled in to bone dry seed beds with no rain for a month and then enough to get the volunteer wheat up and over their heads. Can things get better?

In my honest opinion yes.

As is often the case oilseed rape splits in to two factions.

There are a lot of crops about that obviously got enough rain at the right time and got up and way with 100% emergence.

The Ukrainian way is to sow too many seeds anyway and when they all come up it is way too thick. However if you talk to the agronomist he will be cock-a-hoop at his lush, thick crop and wont believe me when I tell him the yield will be down as a result.

Then there are the crops that missed any rain in September and had to wait until mid October before they got going.

Emergence is patchy but even at 30 to 50 ppm2 these crops still have the potential to yield well. The question is will they be big enough to make it through the winter? At 4 to 5 true leaves they should be ok although the smaller plants will be at risk.

Weed control has generally been good but residual herbicides applied in the dry have obviously been less effective than they should be. Coupled with smaller plants and a patchy emergence I think we might have to rely on desiccants to help with the harvest.

Volunteer wheat is a problem and many crops will have taken a yield hit even though a graminicide has been applied.

Disease levels are low, no sign of phoma or light leaf spot although I did apply half rate tebuconazole both for disease and to make the plants hardier.

No insect damage even though I mixed home saved seed which wasn’t dressed, something I will do more of in the future because it works and saves money.

There are a number of stem boring insects that migrate in to the plants at this time of the year although you often don’t spot them until stem extension in the spring. A pyrethroid in with the autumn fungicide is a good bet here.

Summary as oilseed rape goes in to the winter – fair to good.

Ukraine autumn agronomy report - wheat

A couple of weeks of unseasonably mild weather has done wonders to the later sown and late emerged plants and allowed a lot of land work to be completed before the onset of winter.

Early sown wheat is now at G.S.14-15 / 21-23 with the latest sown crop at G.S.11-12.

Emergence has been good in the warm soils with up to 80% not uncommon.

Wheat plant populations in Ukraine is a hotly debated topic (well it is by me) and I will come back to this one at a later date but the aim is to achieve 450 to 500ppm2 because tillering is a bit of a problem.

Weed control is good with charlock (Sinapis arvensis) and runch (Raphanus raphanistrum) very obvious because of their size but will die out over the winter.

Plenty of volunteer rape highlighting high levels of seed loss as the rape plant very quickly matured back in the heat of the summer. Those that survive the winter will be quickly disposed of with a sniff of sulfonylurea if populations dictate.

Mix of various broad leaved weeds but at low populations, very small (cotyledon) and where we have used pendamethlin taking a hit so not expecting to see them come the snow melt.

Various thistles species continue to be problematic but in patches and rarely enough to justify spraying a complete field. When we introduce GPS technology we might map these and apply clopyralid if we can get hold of it.

I have seen some discoloured and stunted patches which I think might be early symptoms of BYDV which would fit in with the weather as there are aphids about in the crop. It could also be soil viruses, something I have been looking at in detail this year and will come back to over the winter.

Low levels (less than 5%) of a wheat bulb fly type larvae taking out tillers. I normally find these in wheat unlike my Ukrainian agronomists who consistently fail to spot them along with pretty much everything else but then again they are pretty difficult to see from the road.

Control options are a bit nuclear and not particularly effective so we will leave the little buggers for the time being, they will be something to target in the years to come as we start pushing yields up.

Summary as wheat goes in to the winter - good to excellent.

Tax doesn’t need to be taxing, or life threatening come to that

Ranked third worst in the world by the World Bank, Ukraine obviously has some serious issues over taxes.

Here’s one example, allegedly.

Tax authorities have recently been ordered to inspect all small to medium sized businesses and “find” tax discrepancies to the tune of 50,000UAH (4K GBP) per business or risk losing their jobs.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

What export ban?

Nibulon, Kernel and Serna have obtained nearly 53% of the grain export quota or 2.182MMT according to the Ukrainian Economy Ministry (here).

This is the second year in three that Ukraine has imposed export restrictions. That can’t be doing much for its reputation as a reliable trader.

Flexi headers and soya

I have had a lot of interest from people asking how the flexi headers worked out on soya.

Soya can be low growing and it can be difficult to get the lowest pods with a rigid header. We hired in some combines with flexi headers and they worked very well not leaving any pods behind when compared to the wide conventional header.

I was impressed enough to consider investing in these for next year.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Why I think lifting the moratorium on land sales is not necessarily a good idea

Read my full account in the Kyiv Post here.

Next week why I think beer is good for you.

They think it's all over...

...well it is now.

Finished harvesting soya at the weekend, all crops now either in the shed or already sold.

The government is suggesting the Ukrainian harvest is all but done, however my snoops are telling me otherwise. There are a few well known big agri-businesses still hammering away at substantial areas of maize and soya.

Forecast is still ok so I hope they don’t lose too much, it’s all about getting the balance right, too much in the ground and you don’t harvest it, too many combines and it costs too much, either way you lose money.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Crop Update

Still out and about and internet connection is a bit ropey hence the lack of blogs. I will be back at the weekend with some interesting pictures and if I get time a brief video.

In the meantime what I can report is that harvest is nearly finished, there will be very little left after this weekend and all the new crops I have seen are looking pretty darn good.

And I haven't been arrested yet, ha ha ha!

We are never happy

Daytime temperatures hit 20 degrees Celsius yesterday! It's hot, November and it's hot! Forecast is for a continuing settled period which is just the ticket so long as we don't get too much soft plant growth just before temperatures plummet which they will do anytime soon.

Farmers eh! Too hot, too cold, always whingeing. For some the glass is half full, for some it is half empty and for others it's cracked with stagnant water.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Glorious weather

The weather is a balmy 16 degrees and if not actually summer then positively spring like. As each day like this go by the winter survival chances for each small plant increase, happy days.

I am away for a few days carrying our some field walking and crop assessments, hope to be back with pictures and a video by the weekend so tune back in later to see the current state on crops in Ukraine.

Hope we don’t get arrested by the law, it’s about time I had a run in with the feds. I fought the law and the law locked me up and took away my car and made me pay a fine. Let’s hope not eh.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Shurely shome mishtake?

When the Institute for Agricultural Market Studies (IKAR), a Russian based consultancy business recently commented on the 2010/11 Russian grain balance they stated the figures should be treated with caution because “there is no reliable way of checking real grain stocks on farms and along the post-farming industries and in previous years farms were inclined to over-estimate production figures.”

I might be mishtaken but I think the same could be true of Ukraine statistics.

Is it true that 90% of statistics are made up on the spot?

Yes, but only 50% of the time.

The administration responsible for collecting state statistics asked for our yields. When we told them and that we haven’t completed harvest yet they asked if we could say we have finished and could we lie about the yields otherwise it will make them look bad and they would lose their jobs.

Stealing etiquette

The people who work on your farm will try and steal your grain, in some cases by as much as 20% of your output.

They are inherently better at it than your average thieving scouser and before any scousers email me to complain, dey do do dat dough don't dey dough.

In response you put in systems, procedures and technology to reduce the incidence of theft. Then the people who are stealing get angry that you’re not allowing them to steal at will.

Sorry guys, you have to devise even more ingenious ways of stealing, that’s how the game is played.


Not quite an Indian summer but mild weather persists much to the relief of many farmers with late germinating and slowly developing crops in the ground.

Day time temperatures in double figures with intermittent sun to help warm up the soil and above freezing night time temperatures.

I can understand Napoleon when he wrote home at this time of the year scoffing his advisors that the Russian winter was going to be a lot worse, "it's like spring time in Paris, I’m walking around in my shirt sleeves having a right laugh with the lads before we head off to conquer Moscow, send me some sun cream, LOL, Bony!"

Friday, 5 November 2010

Quote of the week

Kyiv police apologize for their unprofessionalism.

Kyiv police have issued an apology after attempting to detain head of the World Association of News and News Publishers Christoph Riess and Jan Wagner of the INMA organization.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

The unofficial ban was unofficial

It appears the glitch to sunseed trading that resulted in customs holding up shipment and prices going south as a result was indeed down to an over zealous Yuri or to be charitable a bottle neck at the port.

Prices have started to return to normal with latest quotes back to what they were previously i.e. north of 4,000UAH (308GBP).

Phew, we can breath again, at least until the rumour mill starts up again.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Weathermen, pah!

What do they know, despite forecasting warm weather we are having a cool day today. No frost last night but this cool, misty weather isn't going to help further plant development.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Sunflower prices

Have dropped to 3,500UAH (275GBP) from over 4,000UAH.

According to my sources, customs have stopped clearing sunflowers for shipment and this is having a knock on effect on the price as all trade has stopped.

This is not an official ban but then again the ban on cereal exports wasn't official for the first three months.

I have no idea if this is just a localised problem caused by an over zealous Yuri at the port or if he is being encouraged to implement blockages to slow down export.

Either way it's a big problem if it continues for much longer. Sunflowers performed well this year, about the only crop that could put up with the heat and drought and robust price will be crucial to many budgets.

We could all really do with out government interference on this one.

See what I mean...

...about the soil in the header, doesn't do it much good or the analysis. Perhaps we could market it as soil-ya!

Harvest update

Soya harvest is continuing slowly with yields disappointing but probably realistic as the shallow rooted crop suffered in the summer heat and drought.

Plants are low growing this year, combines are struggling to cut low enough without picking up soil and are leaving pods behind. Not much can be done although everyone reckons flexi headers will help. Can't see it myself, bit of a gimmick I reckon, anyone used them before? We have one on contract so we will see how it goes.


Overcast and dry. It feels cool but the temperatures are in to double figures so we should see some plant growth, albeit slow. Forecast is for sun and warm(ish) temperatures, it's the sun I want to see as that will warm up the black soil in the top horizon which will warm the roots and encourage further growth.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Election results

Yesterday was Election Day. Although it will take a few days to get the counts in exit polls are indicating that President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions are in a clear lead from Yulia Tymoshenko’s Fatherland Party.

Expect Yanukovych to say that it is a clear indication of the strength of the party blah blah blah, and Tymoshenko to cry foul that the elections were rigged etc etc.

If voting changed anything they'd abolish it.