Despite the gold and russet hues of the Ukrainian landscape following a cold week, the temperatures have lately soared above 20°C in late October, giving late sown emerging wheat a boost.

The wheat crop this autumn is looking much better year on year and rape and barley crops are very pleasing to the eye. Earlier pest problems such as slugs and cutworm on the rape and wheat have receded and the crops are largely disease free. Our only fly in the ointment is an outbreak of clubroot on one of our blocks, which has not been helped by low pH and two mild winters.

It is always a pleasure to see the positive effects of pest control and soil structure following a hard winter of -30°C, just as long as the crops are safe under a blanket of snow. We still have more than 700ha to lift from our 4500ha of beet, so we don’t want snow just yet. Beet yields have been good, as have potatoes, due to late summer rains, following the drought. So far – with 25% still to cut – we have had our best ever year for corn (maize).

With our new acquisition (see my previous column) forming the largest intensive IFM arable farming business in Europe and possibly globally, we have just scaled another mountain. Our largest ever autumn drilling campaign has just been completed, with just over a 100,000ha successfully established and in good order.

All three main winter crops have been scoring around four on the five-point DAI scale (Dawson Agronomy Index™!) and there has been an absolute minimum of re-drilling this autumn. The only incidences being due to an attack of turnip moth cutworm.

We still have the difficult Ukrainian winter ahead of us, but crops are in the best possible state to enter their hibernation ... ‘Let it snow’, as the song goes.

These scenes are in stark contrast to the burst into summer in Australia where I spent the last two weeks of October. The drought there has been worst in the east, with forage hit badly and grain prices rocketing for poultry and pig producers. Despite recent rains, the soils are still dry and the evidence of last autumn’s massive bushfires clear to see in the coastal town of Tathra that we visited. Many stock were culled in this drought and farm sales and foreclosures are clear evidence of hardship and sorrow.

Nevertheless, despite the European and Australian droughts, the global grain harvest is set to be the fourth largest in human history. This is a remarkable testament to our industry’s resilience and success through the use of new technology.

Two new examples from Australia worthy of note are drone sprayers taking out patches of glyphosate resistant ryegrass in paddocks. I was also personally privileged to be invited to visit the University of New South Wales’ EPI research centre to experience first hand an amazing research tool for making sense of ‘big data.’

This is the world’s largest and most sophisticated 3D 4k virtual reality amphitheatre where you can ‘walk through’ a cancer cell or human genome data, multi-dimensional medical or biotech research data, Forex data and even a 3D human brain with nerve synapses firing as a result of stimuli, to better understand neurological conditions.

It was truly mind-blowing and it is easy to speculate how such cutting edge technology could help speed up pharmaceutical research, genomic analysis for plant breeding or aid in the development of more site specific crop protection agents.

Two recently published reports caught my eye and scrutiny. The first was the latest report from the UN’s IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change), an hysterical exercise in climate alarmism par excellence with ‘safe’ temperature targets arbitrarily reduced to 1.5°C, adding trillions to climate change mitigation costs. This is based on no real world observed data, but merely computer models of proven inaccuracy.

This alarmism is paralleled by a collapse in the fudged Paris Climate Agreement, with only 16 nations hitting the emission targets that they themselves set. This sort of alarmism is dangerous because it desensitises the public by continuing to ‘cry wolf’ and also leads to knee-jerk reactions from governments, which usually cost the taxpayer and the poor dearly, whilst achieving zero rounded down. Two clear examples are the DUP’s ‘Cash for ash’ corrupt get rich (for some) scheme and Scottish wind power.

In excess of half of Scotland’s wind generation in 2018 was exported to England and not consumed in Scotland. Scotland’s government, nevertheless, assumes that all of Scotland’s wind generation is consumed in Scotland, that intermittency is not an issue, and that Scotland is, therefore, on track to meet its target of obtaining 100% of its electricity from renewables by 2020.

The chances that Scotland will meet this target are, of course, nil. Scotland’s government is pulling the wool over the public’s eyes (and their purses) by pretending otherwise, whilst burnishing their false ‘green’ credentials at the expense of those in fuel poverty. By wilfully using power and energy as interchangeable nouns, vested interests add to the public’s confusion. The former refers only to electricity, whilst energy in this context includes all forms of energy needs including trains, planes and automobiles. Quite different things.

A statement in the IPCC report which didn’t get much publicity was: ‘There is little evidence to link climate change with an increase in extreme weather events.’ This is a very welcome about-face by IPCC and fits the real world data, but not the alarmist news agenda.

It is a fact that, in 2018, the most accurate satellite data showed significant global cooling, not warming as predicted and that Arctic Ice increased back to 2002 levels. Recent satellite research has shown that 90% of global atolls have either increased or stayed the same in size. No Pacific or Indian Ocean atoll suffered from reduced land area over the last forty years.

This despite grave predictions to the contrary, in relation to sea level rises and erosion. More under reported good news which doesn’t fit the doomsday narrative designed to open our collective wallets unwisely.

The second more worrying report from the WWF was on the decline in animal numbers worldwide, with 60% of animal numbers being lost in the last 50 years. These are worrying numbers and are linked to loss of habitat to farmland the report states.

But, it fails to draw the link between less intensive use of land area by modern targeted intensive systems, including GM, as compared to the wasteful organic systems it espouses. Organic systems, it transpires, have historically overestimated yields per ha, as they are inherently highly inefficient in their use of land, hence their need for massive premiums in the shop.

This is due to their need to legume fallow to provide fertility. Most organic farms are currently ‘living off’ historic applications of inorganic N and especially PK fertilisers. To replace current levels of fertiliser N use by legume fallows would leave only 30% of the current cropland for food production! This would cull 60% of the human population – genocide agriculture?

Yes we need to conserve animal species, but modern intensive production systems are part of the solution by releasing land for greater biodiversity, not the problem itself. The position would be even worse if raised CO2 levels (only 0.04% of the atmosphere) were not increasing both crop and natural system production significantly.

It’s a mystery why environmental ‘activists’ can’t grasp these two inalienable truths. We will continue with our modern environmentally aware, but intensive farming in Ukraine to the benefit of both humans and wildlife – systems that most farmers worldwide currently espouse.