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Ian Pigott

6 September 2002

Ian Pigott

Ian Pigott farms 690ha

(1700 acres) of owned,

rented, share-farmed and

contract-farmed land in

partnership with his father

from Thrales End,

Harpenden, Herts. Wheat,

oilseed rape, spring barley,

beans and peas are the main

crops on the flinty,

medium clay soils

I have been following the World Summit in Johannesburg with interest. This world championship of political chess sees countries wanting to take everything and give nothing. Agriculture appears to be both political hot potato and powerful bargaining chip.

The US, as usual, continues to take the "throw money at the problem" approach. By being the donator of more than 50% of the African emergency aid President Bushs administration seems to reckon it toes the line on environmental issues. In contrast many developing countries refuse to tighten up on environmental commitments unless they are given more aid.

The current famine in Africa highlights the state of confusion and petulance among world summit delegates. Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique reject World Health Organisation endorsed food aid because it may be genetically modified. The EU interferes saying it will not back the WHO claims of GM safety. The three African nations claim the GM aid will affect exportability of home produce, post famine. Meanwhile 300,000 will die from starvation.

There is a lack of understanding in the UK media as well. An editorial of a leading broadsheet states that by abolishing agricultural subsidies "food companies and consumers would welcome lower prices for their ingredients." I suggest that if commodity prices were not multilaterally depressed many of the issues being addressed at the world summit would be tackled much more objectively.

Harvest has been very much a mixed bag. First wheats were a high point, especially Consort and Malacca, as is the staffs continued commitment to work some very long hours and the reliability of the combine. Lows have been the yield of the second wheats, which were not treated with Latitude (silthiofam), the quality of all the wheat bar Malacca, and the continuing mediocrity of break crops.

With combining finished, oilseed rape drilled and stale seed-beds prepared, would you believe it, we are now in desperate need of rain. &#42

With harvest home, Ian Pigott has been taking a keen interest in the World Summit in Johannesburg.

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Ian Pigott

12 July 2002

Ian Pigott

Ian Pigott farms 690ha

(1700 acres) of owned,

rented, share-farmed and

contract-farmed land in

partnership with his father

from Thrales End,

Harpenden, Herts. Wheat,

oilseed rape, spring barley,

beans and peas are the

main crops on the flinty,

medium clay soils

MY annual jaunt to the Royal Show revealed several stark messages. Sadly, the most blatant was the decision by many of the larger machinery manufacturers to give it a miss.

I have commented before on the demise of our local county show. Less and less of an agricultural agenda saw it all too soon became a horse show come outdoor car showroom and upmarket car boot sale.

The downward spiral was very quick. No machinery dealers therefore no arable farmers. No dairy lines therefore no dairy farmers.

I will never know how much business was ever done at the Hertfordshire Show, but the shiny machinery provided an excuse to go along and chat to other farmers. It is a sorry reflection on the state of our industry and I hope that that the Royal Show does not become yet another casualty.

On a brighter note, I have been awarded a Nuffield Scholarship to study how agriculture and environmental issues are incorporated into the school curricula of other countries and how that affects long-term consumer loyalties and purchasing trends.

Trawling the Royal Show for yet more information – Ive done a lot of research already – I was overwhelmed by the amount of work that is being done by individuals and organisations such as Farming And Countryside Education and The Countryside Agency to try to get our message across. It is an uphill struggle but I believe we should all try to promote our industry, taking every opportunity to educate the wider audience.

Back home, we desiccated some oilseed rape last weekend but the majority ripened evenly and has little weed infestation so will be left alone until harvest.

Take-all is widespread in wheat in the county and the sooner agronomists can offer more insight into this disease the better. Telling me this is a bad year for take-all once wheat goes white does not help my rotation planning! &#42

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Ian Pigott

17 May 2002

Ian Pigott

Ian Pigott farms 690ha

(1700 acres) of owned,

rented, share-farmed and

contract-farmed land in

partnership with his father

from Thrales End,

Harpenden, Herts. Wheat,

oilseed rape, spring barley,

beans and peas are the main

crops on the flinty,

medium clay soils

OUR county show is just around the corner and over the past few years my farming neighbours and I have tried to drum up support to put on an agricultural display; a display and commentary on the machinery we use and the crops we grow; in essence, a display to try to show Jo Public a little more about what we farmers do.

Farming on the fringes of suburbia we suffer two very different types of abuse from our non-farming neighbours. On the one hand, fly tipping, trespass, coursing, and theft; on the other verbal abuse for taking tractors on the road, making noise when working late at night, and spoiling the air with our pollinating crops. The former use the countryside as a dumping ground, the latter as a playground, yet neither party seems to "get it".

In their defence, neither of these subdivisions are necessarily anti-farming; it is more that they dont understand it. Hence, post foot-and-mouth we are pleased to once again grace the main ring. It is hardly the Red Devils but is our small contribution to entertaining our urban neighbours for half an hour and hopefully showing them that we farm as much for the sake of the farmland as we do for the sake of the farmers.

Climbing carefully off my soapbox I must say the crops look well, well from the road that is. Blackgrass is popping up in places despite a moderately expensive Avadex (triallate), ipu and Treflan (trifluralin) programme. Other areas that have been historically bad and had Avadex followed by Lexus/Hawk (flupyrsulfuron-methyl/clodinafop-propargyl + trifluralin) look as clean as a whistle. I think the moral is there is no halfway house with difficult blackgrass.

My local merchant reckons raising a smile with readers in the present climate must be harder than making a £2/t turn on wheat. I can only say that my fungicide programme this season is "all singing and all dancing": "A Canto, an Opera and an Opus." &#42

Crops look well but blackgrass is appearing where it has no business too in the cereals on Ian Pigotts Herts farm.

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Ian Pigott

21 December 2001

Ian Pigott

Ian Pigott farms 690ha

(1700 acres) of owned,

rented, share-farmed and

contract-farmed land in

partnership with his father

from Thrales End,

Harpenden, Herts. Wheat,

oilseed rape, spring barley,

beans and peas are the main

crops on the flinty,

medium clay soils

PUTTING the farm to bed for Christmas is a chance to take a positive look forward as well as reminiscing a little about the year that has just been.

Last season was unsatisfying in more ways than one. We spent most of it playing catch-up, with the result that crops were second rate and unrewarding both to the eye and the bank balance.

A year on and the crops flatter in comparison. Our spraying is up to date, fertiliser has been applied to oilseed rape and beans are ploughed in. I do not want to get too carried away, but in keeping with the Yuletide spirit I am going into 2002 optimistic of better things.

Recent fine weather has allowed us to get on with our Countryside Stewardship obligations. We borrowed a farm modified hedge planter from a neighbour and made relatively light work of a back-aching task. The following day 10 local volunteers, under the watchful eye of the county countryside management agency, applied canes and spirals to the newly planted hedges.

I am still concerned at the inconsistency of establishment in the 6m grass margins, but our agronomist has assured me that there is no cause for concern yet.

With the farm quiet we are spending time titivating other parts of the business, tidying up the horse livery yard, preparing for a software overhaul in the office and trying to lay those tired patches of concrete before the price goes up in January.

Having been accused of being very dour of late, I would like to point out the good points of 2001 – we spent less on steel; our pesticide bill came down a tad; UK on-farm grain and oilseed prices are about 15% higher than 12 months ago; our new combine went through the entire harvest without a breakdown; my dog is now house trained; and the vast majority of people in the industry with whom we do business are still fun to work with.

Merry Christmas. &#42

Field work is up to date at Thrales End and Countryside Stewardship work underway, says Ian Pigott.

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Ian Pigott

26 October 2001

Ian Pigott

Ian Pigott farms 690ha

(1700 acres) of owned,

rented, share-farmed and

contract-farmed land in

partnership with his father

from Thrales End,

Harpenden, Herts. Wheat,

oilseed rape, spring barley,

beans and peas are the main

crops on the flinty,

medium clay soils

DURING harvest my inquisitive young nephew came to the conclusion that if each grain of wheat was worth 0.1p farming would not be too bad.

If I had a penny for every slug in our crops now it would not be too bad either.

As expected wheat following oilseed rape was badly grazed but more surprisingly fields that grew oilseed rape two years ago also suffered. Thiodicarb at half to full rate is the current policy, with repeats where necessary. As one of my neighbours commented, running them over with the ATV might be as effective and a damn site cheaper.

We have applied Avadex (tri-allate) on fields with the most severe blackgrass, planning to follow that up with an ipu/trifluralin mix of 5 litres/ha and 2.3 litres/ha respectively or Hawk/Lexus (clodinafop-propargyl + trifluralin / flupyrsulfuron-methyl) at 2.5 litres and 20g/ha respectively.

The winter barley had Crystal (flufenacet + pendimethalin) at 4 litres/ha pre-emergence which we plan to follow with an ipu/trifluralin mix as soon as the land dries out. Light showers seem to be a thing of the past; 10-15mm is an "average shower" now and a set of Trelleborg tyres have been added to the wet weather gear to try to give us more windows for spraying.

This years shift to min-till establishment of oilseed rape has taught me a couple of lessons, the plough being replaced by Shakerator followed by light discs and drill, two passes with the discs then drill or simply broadcast seed by ATV.

Lesson one: chopped straw mops up available nitrogen so straw should have been removed and compound applied sooner. Lesson two: competition from volunteers is greater than with ploughing and Falcon (propaquizafop) should have gone on earlier. However, thanks to some kind weather I think we got away with it.

Now we have only beans left to drill. But there is no time to relax yet. As last year showed, blackgrass is far easier to control now than with a fire brigade treatment in spring. &#42

Ian Pigott learnt a couple of lessons about min-till oilseed rape establishment this autumn, but thinks he has got away with it. Elsewhere slugs and blackgrass are proving costly to control.

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Ian Pigott

28 September 2001

Ian Pigott

Ian Pigott farms 690ha

(1700 acres) of owned,

rented, share-farmed and

contract-farmed land in

partnership with his father

from Thrales End,

Harpenden, Herts. Wheat,

oilseed rape, spring barley,

beans and peas are the main

crops on the flinty,

medium clay soils

ANYONE need extra crop storage? I am sure we could oblige at a very competitive rate because the stores are hardly full to the gunnels. As harvest progressed so yields became more and more disappointing.

I have a worrying sense of deja vu. Rain continues to fall and we already have surface water lying in some fields. However, most of our first wheat is in the ground and chitting well. We have drilled mostly Consort, at 170 kg/ha (1.4cwt/acre). The remainder will be Xi19 and Malacca, seed rate to depend on when we can plant them and the state of the seed-bed. The closer we get to October the closer to 200 kg/ha (1.6cwt/acre) we will be.

Last weekend we hosted the local district ploughing match. My conscience is still pricking me hence the need for a written apology in FARMERSWEEKLY. What the ploughmen probably didnt expect was a field of knotgrass interspersed with the odd tuft of stubble. The field in question was a calamity of last years wet weather. It was an obvious choice for redrilling but never dried out so we opted for the minimal input option, ie "it doesnt justify having anything spent on it so we wont".

The fruits of that decision were plain to see and I have to say the entrants made a very difficult task appear, if not easy, bearable. We had a very good turnout and I would hate anyone to think the reason we held it there was because we didnt want to plough it ourselves. I suppose there is no point in having a conscience unless you use it.

The one winner in this frustrating season is the oilseed rape. All of it is through the ground and lapping up the rain. Now it would benefit from a bit of sun and some compound to cheer it up. Falcon (propaquizafop) at 0.3 litres/ha appears to be doing a good job killing volunteers and at present slugs are not too much of a problem. &#42

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