A year ago 2020 BC (Before Covid) seems a long distant memory for me and I expect for many others.

Our agricultural community has, sadly, not been left untouched by its tragedy. It is incredible that a virus whose current total global load – if all the current viral fragments were assembled together, would occupy only 100ml of volume – has changed so many lives. Despite the welcome strong start to the Covid-19 vaccination programme, the current new normal looks likely to continue for some time. This vaccination success is based on a programme run by the NHS, local authorities and health executives and they are to be congratulated on their efficiency so far.

Happily, vaccine wars were averted, after a hastily reversed silly miss-step by the EU.

How different the Track n’ Trace programmes and App, and virus control programmes might have been if they too had been placed in NHS hands, rather than hastily assembled private 'partnerships.' These were hasty initiatives, unrestrained by competitive tenders and key aspects of corporate governance.

Incredible that the head of Track n' Trace, Dido Harding, only last week claimed she was unaware that viruses could mutate. BBC Bitesize, or any secondary school student, or farmer, could have informed her of that sad fact. Pathogen mutation and resistance is biology writ large for all of us.

These matters have had a direct effect on our industry, whether through tourism and hospitality closures or loss of important export markets.

One thing we have learnt from this pandemic is the intense interconnectivity between all industries and all our lives. The figures released by the Scotch Whisky Association show a drop in business of £1.1bn last year due to airport duty free shop and hospitality closures, coupled with the Trump tariff increases to US import markets. Scotch salmon sales were down 23%.

With the worst economic downturn since 1709, the troubling start to 2021 which I covered in my last column has continued to unravel like an oven ready 'deal'.

Whether you believe the latest figures of a 68% reduction in overseas UK lorry journeys into the EU reported by the Road Haulage Association, or the Government's own figures of an 18% drop in export value, there is no doubt that there have been immense problems for exporters, whether in the Scottish fishing or farming industries.

Equity trading in Amsterdam exceeded that in London last week for the first time – memories of the famous early 1600s Dutch tulip bulb mania long forgotten.

Back then, the 'tulip bubble' caused the rarest bulbs to be traded for up to the equivalent today of £500,000 each, before market collapse. A bitcoin or UK financial services parable perhaps?

Business cannot afford to take the '10-year view' as Dominic Raab suggested we do this week.

On recent business travel to Ireland, I witnessed for myself the new customs checks and delays at Belfast port and the intimidatory graffiti targeting border control staff. I also talked to one of Donegal’s largest potato growers, who wondered how on earth he would be able to access his usual order of Scottish seed potatoes next season.

We have moved from frictionless trade, to tradeless friction in less than a month. It has not been edifying to witness Brexiters, such as Kate Hoey and Nigel Farage, try to explain that they didn’t understand what 'third country status' or 'rules of origin' actually meant in reality. Could it be that they didn’t know what they were voting for after all?

Nor is it comforting to hear Michael Gove backtracking furiously on his earlier export 'only teething problems' remarks and plead to the EU for an extension to export transition arrangements until 2023.

An extension our UK Government itself turned down bluntly to 'Get Brexit Done.' Although channel transport journeys are nearer normal levels this week, 50% are empty 'returns' due to export paperwork fears.

It has been welcome to see the relative post inauguration calm in the US and a coherent professional in charge now with a nepotism free, experienced and knowledgeable team. We welcome his early support, both vocal and material for Ukraine, where we have considerable farming interests.

It is clear that the new President is, however, 'Biden his time' on any new US/UK trade deal and putting an EU deal ahead of one with the UK – not the only Trump promised pipeline that Biden is closing down.

Meanwhile, the 'happy' fish out of water, Liz Truss, a disaster at Defra, is championing a new potential deal with the TransPacific Free Trade Partnership. All this whilst we offend our nearest and largest trade neighbours, not least by downgrading their representative ambassador.

As Donald Tusk memorably stated in 2016 'let me tell Mr Johnson about cake, first you have a cake, then you eat the cake and then you have no cake.' Cakeism can now be declared officially dead.

Our first year in Ukraine with our potato/processing agribusiness Central Plains Group has been a highly successful one. We are developing a zero waste, integrated business supplying the growing bioplastics and plant proteins bioeconomy.

We are currently in the middle of a second fundraising round and a crowdfunding campaign for smaller investors, to raise funds for the pilot starch and protein plants, which is going well so far.

Farming never stops and we are now well into harvest in Mato Grosso, in Brazil, on remediated grassland soils farming soya and maize. Rains have delayed harvest, though quality is good.

The main problems on these heavily weathered red oxisols are low organic matter (OM) and cation exchange capacity, fixation of K fertilisers making them unavailable, low P and high concentrations of iron and aluminium oxides.

They are naturally low fertility and low pH as they have been heavily leached in this wet and humid environment. Quite different to our younger more fertile Scottish soils and requiring completely different management.

Despite the inherent problems of these leached tropical soils, when managed properly they can be productive and yields of over 3t/ha of soyabean can be produced, as they are this year despite earlier drought. Soya prices are higher than budgeted this year and so returns are good and in Brazil double cropping (ie two crops per annum can be achieved) with either maize, as in Cuba, or sorghum is possible.

My comments last column on 'Regenerative Agriculture' sparked some interest and we shall be debating Soil Health and Regenerative Agriculture in our centenary year SSCR Winter Cereals Meeting on the afternoon of February 25 (details from events@hutton.ac.uk).

Speakers will include Julian Gold, from Oxfordshire, Soil Farmer of the Year 2019; Doug Christie; Richard Dye; and Roy Neilson.

Brian Henderson’s excellent article last week highlighted the organic lie that 'we have only 60 global harvests left' due to soil degradation. As I pointed out in my last column and previously, real data shows this to be completely untrue.

Yet a lie repeated three times becomes the truth. A lie embellished by Gove in his days at Defra to “30 or 40 years left” – again a lie, with no data to back it up.

USDA figures announced last week for 2020 confirmed yet another record global harvest for not only wheat, as previously reported, but rice and maize too.

Global wheat production is up to 701m tonnes, yet consumption has also increased to 698m tonnes, with prices firm. Rising atmospheric CO2 levels have played a key part in this global success.

Deaths from malnutrition have dropped massively in the last 30 years and climate change has had almost zero affect on these. Climate related deaths are also at an all time low.

But, there is no cause for complacency. We need to continue good soil stewardship using all our tools, in all systems, but we are being succesful.

Elon Musk recently offered a $100m reward for a technology to capture carbon. We already have that technology in crops, trees and soil.

Recent research has also shown that nitrogen fertiliser has a key role in carbon capture, as well as feeding the world. An optimally fertilised wheat crop captures eight times the carbon compared to a zero N crop, even after adjustment for manufacture and transport carbon costs of the N fertiliser.

Whilst I was in Ireland, a new initiative was announced for Irish farmers with a €10m scheme to incorporate 15% of the national cereal straw harvest. This incorporation, rather than sale off the farm, attracts a grant of €250/ha.

With peat being lost as an animal bedding and 2020 supplies tight, this is worrying for the livestock and mushroom sector. It will be a further bonus after the payment for Irish arable farmers as bale prices will rise.

I am unsure as to the net benefit of this rearranging of chairs as in Ireland as most straw sold off the farm was previously utilised and then incorporated on a different farm. More green-washing to little net effect?

On climate change, energy, soil health, farming support and production systems, we need sensible effective evolution based on solid data. Evidence-based policy, not policy based evidence, should be the drivers for our future systems and processes not political dogma and alarmist lies.