The weather in Lviv is unseasonably mild for the time of year, with temperatures well above zero.

The whole of the west of Ukraine has had less snow and rain than usual, with no real winter yet. Crops look well, but this leaves crops unprotected and rather lush, actively growing and forward.

This is worrying, with the prospect of the usual cold March winds ahead. And, a lack of snow to recharge soil moisture, also increases the risk of summer drought here.

Changed times in more ways than one. As I’ve noted in previous columns, there are increasing opportunities in Ukraine, with President Zelensky having passed legislation to lift the moratorium on agricultural land sales. The soils remain globally excellent and at very competitive prices per hectare.

After 14 years, Mark and I have said farewell to the business we built from scratch, with our great team, to become Europe’s largest intensive crop farm at 200kha and Ukraine’s largest potato grower.

We sold the business a few years ago, but have ran it for the new owners until we achieved this milestone for them. We can be justifiably proud of what we have achieved and the jobs and benefits we have brought to what was ‘unfashionable’ Western Ukraine.

We spotted something few others had in a favourable juxtaposition of climate, soil and people.

Now is the time for a new challenge for the team to build another business with investors. The fundamentals remain very exciting and we have nearly 15 years of experience and knowledge here.

As in 2005, the first crop will be our beloved potatoes, with a variety of markets served from our initial several hundred ha. As well as crisping, fresh and seed markets, we are excited about the production of starch and integration into a biodegradable packaging venture.

We have developed a reputation for good storage and quality over the years and this will stand us in good stead for new contracts.

In tandem with this opportunity, we are developing the opportunities for when land sales become possible. There will be few times in history when such great soil in such quantity will come on the market, but the many potential investors will need careful guidance and the benefit of the wealth of experience of a team that has “Been there done that” before successfully.

Exciting times ahead, which I hope readers of this column will find interesting.

Many hardy souls will have completed veganuary. Along with ‘dry January’, I wonder why people wish to make the bleakest month of the year even more miserable. It puts one in mind of the flagellants in medieval monasteries.

I recently examined what the fuss was about by buying and consuming both a Gregg’s steak bake and their vegan “steak” bake, at one sitting. I was not impressed by the latter at all, but the components will be cheaper and the margins higher.

What is often not raised in these recent virtue signalling debates, are the immoral aspects of both veganism and organic arable agriculture. Without a market for their delicious provender, livestock would be denied an existence at all. It is us omnivores, who by our eventual purchase grant them life in the great Scottish outdoors, to safely graze.

Where is the morality in denying an animal any life at all? They say you don’t live longer as a vegan – it just seems like it?

The extensive livestock systems of Scotland are quite different to the intensive feedlots of the US and the poor rearing, stocking densities and use of growth hormones and routine antibiotics there, which would be illegal in the EU.

Most UK livestock areas would struggle to grow crops due to severe climatic or soil restrictions, something vegan advocates conveniently forget.

Producing more protein crops to replace animal protein would put even more pressure on that scarce resource, arable land, whilst leaving current livestock areas desolate.

It’s only the lack of federal regulations on poultry stocking densities in the US that require the need for chlorination. Conditions which would quite rightly be illegal in the EU.

The last year of records in the US showed more than 700 deaths related to bacterial food poisoning from chicken, whereas there were close to zero in the UK.

Scotland is different. Extensive livestock production is the only option for agricultural production and the rural communities which depend on it, in many areas. Where is the morality in destroying rural and coastal communities, already on a knife edge, and also the landscapes they have stewarded for centuries?

National Parks and UNESCO World Heritage areas are rightly protected and lauded because of this culture and stewardship. Massive rewilding will produce another Highland Clearance.

If I drove a car which guzzled four times as much fuel as the average, I would be rightly vilified for using more than my fair share of precious fossil fuel. Yet, that is exactly what true organic crop production does in using four times the land to produce a loaf of bread or packet of processed tofu.

Extra land will be required to build the fertility we now provide through carefully handled, costly nitrogen and PK fertilisers. So, the organic vegan is doubly immoral in using more than their fair share of that most important resource, arable land.

Recent work by Rothamsted has shown that processed vegan foods, such as tofu and almond/coconut milk, are much closer in carbon footprint than one might imagine. Like electric cars, when one uses a whole life cycle pathway analysis, including food miles, the likes of tofu and almond milk come out less ‘green’ in totality than some would suggest. Carbon sequestration of grassland is also a positive, in addition to its benefits for landscape, soil health and biota.

This is the season of conferences and get togethers to share experience and trials. I was interested to hear a senior European representative from Corteva extolling the virtues of adjuvants at a recent Irish tillage conference.

They claimed that no future product of theirs would be used without an adjuvant. I seem to recall we were in this same space 25 years ago with CSC CropCare, later to join the Agrii fold.

The benefits in tank mix are now, without doubt for the right adjuvant, doubly so with generic products which are often cheaper, but often sub-optimally formulated. I have found the right adjuvants highly beneficial whether in Scotland, Poland or Ukraine. Like all soils, all adjuvants are not equal!

Other meetings have emphasised the benefits

of the new fungicide, RevyStar and the increasing resistance issues with SDHIs. Thank goodness we have, at last, got chlorothalonil in the Ukraine!

Uk growers have lost the, so will now have to do with inferior multi-site fungicides. But use them we must, for all our sakes.

Two interesting meetings coming up are Crop Production in Northern Britain, in Dundee, on February 25 and 26, and the Scottish Society of Crop Research Winter Cereals Meeting, on March 19, at the James Hutton Institute. Both will give further food for thought.

So, we find that despite electoral promises, Brexit is not yet ‘Done’. An act of poisoned imaginations, inspired by an illusion of a past, forged on the anvil of misdirected grievances, borne aloft by an imaginary future.

The Law of Unintended Consequences will no doubt apply!