So, the question on everybody’s mind: is the current price of nitrogen the new normal – or are we just looking at a temporary conjunction consisting of a spike in gas prices, rising world demand and commercial opportunism which will rectify itself if we have the nerve not to blink until spring?

Not an easy one to answer. While we all thought that the latter might well be the case, the fact that prices have continued to move inexorably in one direction only for the past few months could well be an indicator that we’re witnessing a bit of a step change in the price of our inputs.

Read more: Brian Henderson's Arable Matters: For whom the alarm bells toll!

So, it’s gonna be more than a little interesting to see just what sort of a shake-out the current hike in prices creates – because I can’t believe that there’ll be many growers out there who haven’t been having more than a wee look at their cropping plans, or their proposed fertiliser usage in the light of the current situation.

In fact, some industry pundits have been predicting that the rethinking that’s currently going on in farm offices around the country – looking at changing cropping plans and reducing fertiliser inputs – is likely to see a cut of between 12 and 20% in the amount of nitrogen used on crops next year. That’s a pretty substantial figure.

Now, before we all give in to the overwhelming temptation to say “b***er them” and do without the stuff for a year, it’s worth remembering the sheer response which we get from the use of nitrogen. Given that the price of wheat is also likely to have a fair wind blowing in its sails that, too, needs to be factored into the equation.

WARNING! - Back of fag packet calculations coming up…

Okay – so drop the fert' and without some serious applications of FYM, ploughed in cover crops, previous legume cropping, or ploughing up some long-term leys and taking the national average yield for wheat of around 8.5 tonnes/ha (okay, I know you get more than that…) would it be wildly wrong to say that yields might drop to around 4 t/ha?

Therefore, if we we’re losing around 4.5 t/ha, with next year’s November future creeping up towards the £200 mark, that could be worth around £900.

But, by cutting out an ammonium nitrate application of 200kg N/ha that might save us close to 600kg of paid for fert'. At, well, let’s call it £700 a tonne just to keep ourselves scared – that would be a saving of £420.

Of course – and this is where the tricky bit comes in – the nitrogen response curve isn’t linear and application rates are very much subject to the law of diminishing returns. Ie, while small applications produce a fairly large response, if you add more that response tends to fall away – and there’s always been an optimum beyond which additional application doesn’t stack up.

This has long been realised and while it is based on English conditions, rather than our own, the AHDB’s RB209 nutrient management guide actually gives you a table which plots wheat price against fertiliser prices. That gives an indication of by how much you should rescue your standard applications in light of different comparative prices.

Only real problem with that is the fact that it needs a serious updating to cope with the current price of fertilisers – as it max's out at £483 a tonne!

Of course, there’s going to be knock-on consequences of the various problems further down the line as well and most are predicting that sprays and other inputs are likely to cost more, or be in short supply as well.

Anyhoo – take all the above with a large pinch of salt and, as is always the case, ask someone who knows what they’re talking about to advise you properly.

But whatever we do, or don’t decide to throw about in the way of fertiliser next year, it’s probably going to be done in an even more judicious manner than we’ve done in the past – by avoiding spreading it on to wet and cold soils when it’s much more likely to either leach away or be lost as that serious green house gas, nitrous oxide which, in climate change terms, is the big baddie for the arable sector.

If memory serves, only around half of the nitrogen we spread actually gets used by the plant, so there’s maybe room for making more efficiencies.

Read more: Brian Henderson: Edited harvest highlights and a GM future

All of which brings us round to the other big topic of the moment – our transition to a new, post-CAP, post-Brexit agricultural policy.

Given that much of the focus of this new direction is undoubtedly going to be on climate change and other environmental drivers, work has been going on for some time to on the farming side to come up with practical ideas as to how we can deliver the substantial reductions in GHG emissions which we’re going to have to deliver over a frighteningly short time scale – while, crucially, still being able to produce affordable, high quality food.

And, so, the work of the Farmer-Led Groups is now being put out for consultation by the Scottish Government – and there’s about a month remaining for us to feed in our views – and we’d probably better do that, because while we’re often a bit backward at coming forward, there are plenty of other groups and bodies out there who aren’t, many of whom don’t have our best interest at heart.

But a read through the consultation did raise one worrying statistic.

That was the fact that it’s been calculated that even if there was pretty much wall-to-wall uptake of all the measures which were put forward by the various groups (and that’s not something we can count on, in the short term at least) we would still fall well short of meeting what is no longer a simple target but what is now a legally binding commitment as far as a reduction in our emissions is concerned.

In short, through a combination of reducing our emissions and increasing sequestration of carbon, farming needs to curb its net emissions by 31% from current levels by 2032 if we’re to meet our envelope under the Climate Change Plan Update.

Putting actual figures on that: We need to cut net emissions by 2.4m tonnes of CO2 per year over that period. The FLG recommendations will knock off around 1m tonnes, accounting for around 40% of what’s actually required – leaving us, somehow or other, to find the way to cut the other 60%, or 1.4m tonnes.

Advances in technology together with changes in land use – along perhaps with a fairer system of calculating net emissions – could help us reach that target in the long to medium term. But as instanced by calls from some senior civil servants to cut cattle numbers by 300,000, it’s a well recognised fact that some of those currently trying to develop policy want a short, sharp fix to the problem.

I know that amongst some of the ideas floated by these people – which were pretty quickly decried by the FLGs – included taxes on inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides along with the removal of the lower duty on red diesel.

It was pointed out in no uncertain terms that such moves could only lead to a significant reduction in output – a fact which would inevitably lead to more food being imported from abroad, which would lead to a dramatic off-shoring of our carbon footprint to other areas of the world with lower safety and environmental standards than our own.

So, while I’m not sure where things stand at the moment, there was a lot of noise from the Scottish Government that they wanted to have something on the table before the United Nation’s COP26 climate change conference took place in Glasgow.

But time is rolling on and we’re now pretty much standing on the eve of that big event with the circle yet to be squared. So here’s hoping that the administration won’t decide to take a short-sighted short-cut in order to showboat before the big event – and that we’ll be able to say that 'it’s a fair COP, Gov'.