Monday, 31 January 2011


Does anyone have information on soil temperatures in Ukraine? Specifically rising soil temperatures in the spring?

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Snow Joke

It's that time of year when thoughts turn to the new season ahead and fertiliser springs to mind, well it does in my house.

In Ukraine we have two perennial discussions right about now.

First off, timing; should we apply fertiliser in the snow?

When I first heard this I thought it was crackers but one thing I have learnt in all my time is not to discount seemingly mad ideas as there might be something sensible in it.

But not in this case, it is crackers.

We used to call this "recreational top dressing" back in blighty, winter was over, shooting season had come to an end, everything was painted, washed and tidied away, there was nothing left to do. Everyone was bored so out came the fertiliser spreaders and away we would go.

Loads of lovely nitrogen leaching through the soil profile before the under developed root system had time to suck it up. Worth bearing in mind here that fertiliser can account for 50% of the variable costs.

The only justification I can see for applying nitrogen on to snow in Ukraine is if you have insufficient machinery capacity for the hectares you have, then it might be worth getting some on early.

I believe it is better to wait and apply when the plants start growing, so long as it all goes on before GS30-31 then what's the problem. "Too dry" is the usual cry. Not in my experience, all the spring nitrogen I have ever applied all disappears in a matter of days even with out a rain event, so there!

Next; how much to put on?

Friday, 14 January 2011

Various sources (here for example) are suggesting cash strapped farmers in Ukraine and Russia will be cutting back on spring plantings and inputs this year.

Well duh! That's what happens when you impose an export ban and restrict access to lucrative world market prices which are lucrative specifically because stocks are is in short supply because it has been such a crap harvest.
The upshot being not only did Ukraine and Russian farmers have low yields they have a double whammy of low prices as well because their respective governments decided to ban exports as (I'm being charitable here) a populist political move to keep food prices down when it would have been cheaper to use the existing mechanisms available to them to ensure that vulnerable members of society had access to affordable food by giving them state benefits.
Now plantings will be down as farmers struggle to find cash for diesel and yields will be down on what is planted as farmers can not afford the increasingly expensive fertiliser.
Speaking about Ukraine in particular; this is the second year in three when a trade embargo has been enforced.
Imagine your a grain buyer tasked with hitting your quotas - would you buy from Ukraine, the unreliable grain producer who might default on the deal at any time?

Want to know what's going on in Ukraine?

Here is an interesting and informed take on current events in Ukraine.

It explains and describes some of the murky and confusing political landscape which I have to confess usually leaves me scratching my head.

It is an area that those wishing to embark on a business venture in Ukraine need to concentrate on and would be wise to spend a lot of effort on the "P" part of their "PEST" analysis*.

*political, economic, social, technological analysis- similar to a SWOT analysis dreamt up to fill a module on an MBA, not to be confused with SLEPT, PESTEL, PESTLE, STEEPLE, STEEPLED or STEER analysis; google them if you have lost the will to live.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Ukraine land for sale!

Well it might be by 2012 according to Ukraine's PM, Mykola Azarov.

Azarov is blaming bureaucracy and restrictive land ownership laws for turning Ukraine into a major food importer.

This latest piece of news will undoubtedly fuel increased investment interest in Ukraine as investors look to cash in on the land bank.

Tellingly Azarov goes on to say there would be curbs on foreign ownership to protect the interest of the Ukrainian farmer.

Judge them by what they do and not what they say.

How beer gave rise to civilisation

Early humans discovered beer and settled down in the Fertile Crescent to do a bit of farming growing the raw ingredients.

Later when they found that after beer they felt a tad peckish and fancied a sandwich, bread was discovered and thus civilisation was born.

To help them do this they invented the plough.

Despite the enormous costs of moving soil many still think the plough is the only way to farm. I have lost count the number of farmers I have had the "plough versus min till" debate with which usually results in the dismissive "well I can see why min till works but my farm is different and needs ploughing".

Well it ain't sunshine and the MD of Horsch, Michael Horsch agrees with me.

Here is a link to a 45 minute presentation by Mr Horsch on direct drilling and min till which you may find interesting.

You will need to register and they will send you a link to the audio presentation and slides and will probably inundate you with emails about the conference they are promoting but it's a small price to pay.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Cunning new security

How about this as a new form of on farm theft deterrent?

Lion Dog!

Is it a lion, is it a dog? Well it's a dog obviously but fancy bumping in to him as your creeping around the yard in the dark trying to nick stuff.

Just when you thought it was all over...

It's Christmas!

Christmas comes but once a year and goes on for months.

Well it does in Ukraine, today is the traditional Christmas Eve with the traditional bun fight and merriment to follow and goes on until 19th January.

Happy Christmas Ukraine

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Mystic Mike!

Wasn't I only just predicting that GMO was going to hit the headlines this year when bingo! there's a story about GMO hogs!

Pigs in Canada have been spliced with DNA from mice and E.coli so they are better able to digest phosphates making them cheaper to feed and the resulting slurry lower in phosphates which can lead to eutrophication if allowed to enter water courses.

You could have just fed them a low phosphate diet.

They call them Envropig.

Surely they can come up with a better name than that, right off the top of my head how about PiGMO or GMHog or I can't believe it's not a freak!

Suggestions on a postcard to the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada.


The street hockey playing, ex-farm manager and last dictator of Europe, Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus has been voted back in for a fourth term and kicked out the OSCE to boot.

Lukashenko won nearly 80% of the votes; he seems to have learnt something about elections and the perception of the outside world during his 16 years tenure; he used to win by 90%.

About ten years ago I remember my Belorussian colleagues at the time saying to me that they couldn't arrange a visit as they would be busy "voting in the President."

Which reminds me of another story when George Bush referred to Lukashenko as "the last dictator of Europe", Lukashenko quipped back that Bush was "the worlds number one terrorist". Touche!

Seriously though the opposition are looking at 15 year jail terms for, er, opposing the government.

I have just finished reading a book about the Berlin Wall which came down over 22 years ago, you would think this sort of thing was in the past by now.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Predictions for 2011?

I think it's fair to say that I'm no great lover of the media or media driven stories that play up to anxieties and prejudice but in traditional media style of the season I thought it might be interesting to hear what predictions you might have for the forthcoming twelve months.

Agriculture, food production, politics and possibly football predictions only please.

Here's a few of my own;

We will see increasing demands to curb the activities of speculators who will be targeted and blamed as the cause of rising food prices.

GMO crops gain further acceptance by an increasing vocal majority when told they could help farmers reduce their production costs and thus the cost of food.

A fantastic growing season in Ukraine results in an all time record harvest and subsequent interest from investors.

Liverpool finish in the top three.

Some more likely than others.

New Year and back to work!

Many people will be back at work today, unlucky.

Not much going on over the festive period, London wheat hit a record GBP200, floods in Australia, England retain the Ashes, UK gripped by "the big freeze".

Ukraine still under a blanket of snow which will be insulating the crops underneath. Winter so far has not been too severe although there is still another 10 weeks to go. Last year the winter kill problems didn't occur until February so plenty of time still.