View from the East by Dr Keith Dawson

Since I last wrote, after the long dry spell there have been 10 days of colder weather and heavy rain of 60-100mm in West Ukraine.

This was sorely needed, but not so intense! Last visit, the crops looked full of potential and spring drilling well underway and spraying was largely up to date. Annual rainfall means vary less than seasonal means, which is a scientific way of saying we get it some time in the year and crops needed it!

This was a significant wet weather disease infection event for all cereal crops. And, now the rain has caused delays in spraying in beet weed control and PGR/fungicide sprays in winter cereals.

This has required a wholesale strategy change on mixes in many winter barley and winter wheat crops as latest safe stages for high rate CCC + Moddus mixes have been exceeded. Even late-sown crops after sunflowers – sown October 12/13 – are now at GS37 on our earliest new farms near the Romanian border at Chernitsyi.

The soils there are beautiful and our deep, freely draining, stone free soils give us a natural buffering capacity which we must protect. It is very evident to see the change in annual rainfall as we move away from the Carpathian Mountains, with a drop of around half in annual rainfall from 700mm to 350mm or so over a 200km distance.

Some winter barley crops may only get one 'blockbuster DrD special' to finish the season. A clear example of why agronomy is never a blueprint/recipe but always the 'Art of the Possible', based on scientific facts and evidence.

Our new staff are amazed at how clean our low rate Aviator + adjuvant technology is keeping barley. Just as the EU bans chlorothalonil, we finally get access in mixtures to protect our crops and key actives. What a stupid own goal the CTL ban has achieved, making cereal production much more risky as inferior contact fungicides have to be used instead – a huge difference between risk and hazard and even the hazard is low.

Drilled beet has suffered from high energy rainfall and on slopes has suffered erosion and loss. Disappointingly 540 ha of sunflower have been lost to mice and needing re-drilling. They have lived off beet and other unburied crop residues over winter, bred well and mown down the emerging SFS in short order, obviously requiring some fresh 'salad' with their carbs.

We have had a damn easy year so far and the cold spells have even allowed late-drilled autumn crops to tiller well. Cereals are looking good and rape is now moving into flower, with pest pressure low due to previous management and cooler weather.

Mid-flowering OSR sprays of tebuconazole + MBC + Mavrik/pyrethroid are now going on – the former where bee safety is critical. Our bee sms service to warn local beekeepers is working well.

It's great that Zorvec blight spray is now available to us and we are working as part of an EU blight research programme, as we are with fusarium. Clubroot affected rape is looking improved where not replaced and rain will help. Rhyncho, fusarium and septoria risk is now high and day degree clock ticking loudly, with rising temperatures, for visual symptom expression, eg 240-day °Cs for septoria from infection event.

On the political front in Ukraine, our comedian president was elected and works to take over shortly ... time will tell. On the domestic front, in the UK the political clowns still dominate the circus ring, now on both Brexit and climate change 'emergency'.

Let's first look at this Brexit crisis a different way. Why don't we agree that England leaves both the UK (the idea of a Scottish King) and the EU. Scotland, Northern Ireland, Gibraltar and Wales (if they wish) can remain in both the UK and the EU. This gives England the 'sovereignty' it seems to want, whilst the rest of us can enjoy our UK and EU the way we like it.

In due course, after a binding referendum, England could reapply for membership of the UK, but obviously not on the favourable terms it currently enjoys. Once it discovers that being a 53rd state of the US ain't so great. This would seem to satisfy the most people?

It was an astonishing sight to see lemming politicians leap on the climate change 'emergency' bandwagon. Despite the extravagant unscientific claims and press coverage of both the likes of Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg, we are neither in a major extinction event nor a climate emergency – and the two issues are not linked in any case.

The latter is clearly not happening at a rate which could cause the former. Land use and loss of natural habitat are far more to blame for species loss, which is happening at a much lower rate than made up headline grabbing 'statistics' suggest. It is, of course, crucial that we steward well and massively declining human birth rates are a highly promising sign.

I was incredulous to learn that Greta and her mother, in a new co-written book, claimed that Greta can actually 'see' CO2 in the atmosphere. As she is the only human to ever perform this feat, I thought it was a hoax aimed to discredit, but no, the claim is made by her opera singer mother, Malena, in their new book.

Malena wrote: “She can see carbon dioxide with the naked eye. She sees how it flows out of chimneys and turns the atmosphere into a rubbish tip." This partially explains why Greta is so annoyed about CO2, as exhaled breath is 4-5% CO2, around 100x more than atmospheric CO2 concentration. The poor girl must be virtually blinded every time she exhales her opaque breath.

Let us be clear – CO2 is no less than oxygen in giving us life on earth and current atmospheric levels are only a quarter of the optimum for plant life and growth. Global warming – by the best real satellite measurements – has been very small in the last two decades and is currently cooling, despite rising CO2.

According to the IPCC itself 'there is no link' between extreme weather events, which clear data shows are not increasing and climate change. This makes sense, as with little warming then little extra energy to trigger extreme weather events.

Our politicians jumping on this bandwagon in a knee-jerk response, is both unedifying and alarming. Our own Scottish Government has launched a binding legislation to 'lead the world' in going for a zero carbon economy by 2045.

This announcement on May 1 was sadly exactly a month late to be a spoof. Such extravagant unscientific nonsense will do Scottish agriculture and industry untold harm, whilst achieving zero effect on global climate. There are no prizes or medals for the first lemming over the cliff edge.

Interesting to note that China has announced it is going to build more than 300 new coal-fired power stations outside China in other parts of Asia, in addition to the 1500 it plans domestically.

Meanwhile, global growth in renewable energy has stalled with the removal of subsidies in many countries and this is most marked in China. China was a previous champion but RE growth is now negative and the solar cell industry in turmoil.

Do we see a parallel between the banning of chlorothalonil and the SNP zero carbon economy? Both are expensive unnecessary counter-productive measures which will do massively more harm than good in reality? I rather think we do!

Watch out, the post-truth world has arrived and is banging at your door!