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Tim Piper

30 November 2001

Tim Piper

Tim Piper farms at

Churchlands on the edge

of Romney Marsh, Kent.

Wheat, barley, oilseed rape,

herbage seed and vining

peas occupy 890ha

(2200 acres) of the

1105ha (2730 acre) unit

LAND work is complete and all spraying up to date. Land to be planted in the spring has been ploughed and, compared to last year, it seems a bit of an anti-climax. But I am certainly not complaining.

The unseasonably kind weather is enabling us to clear up some of the jobs that we havent got round to for a while. We have completed several ditch cleaning operations and sorted out one or two land drains that obviously couldnt cope with last winters deluge.

What looked as if it might be a tight supply-and-demand situation for straw for livestock has been made a lot easier by the dry weather weve had this autumn. We still have a large amount of cattle out at grass and our feed bills at the end of the season should show a substantial reduction.

That should serve warning to all arable farmers expecting substantial increases in grain prices. Whats more, a large local poultry producer is reported to be buying foreign wheat – farm assured, of course. Hence, I dont think we are going to see any substantial price hikes in the short-term. Maybe at the end of the marketing season, when foreign wheat supplies begin to dry up, but not now. As we all know, nature has a way of balancing things out.

As is normal at this time of year, we are eagerly awaiting our IACS cheque but having recently had correspondence from DEFRA, whose officials have decided to measure some of our fields digitally, I am not getting too excited.

Still, we can always console ourselves with DEFRAs promise that next year, with the revolutionary e-iacs system in place, it will be much easier, much quicker and less hassle. I am yet to be convinced.

That said, our forms are now being handled by the Rural Payments Agency at Northaller-ton in North Yorks. So far they appear to be a lot more helpful and a lot more organised than the old office at Reading. &#42

Drilled up, sprayed up, its all a bit of an anti-climax, says Kent grower Tim Piper, not that hes complaining.

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Tim Piper

12 October 2001

Tim Piper

Tim Piper farms at

Churchlands on the edge

of Romney Marsh, Kent.

Wheat, barley, oilseed rape,

herbage seed and vining

peas occupy 890ha

(2200 acres) of the

1105ha (2730-acre) unit

I SPOKE too soon in my last article – drilling was progressing nicely, then 90mm (3.5in) of rain took land from too dry to too wet in no time at all.

Initially it was very welcome, as we had just reached a block of land that was rather cloddier than I would have liked. We had resorted to using a double culti-press to achieve a reasonable seed-bed. But the wet weather continued and we arrived at the same block of land where we ground to a halt last year with, as one of my neighbours put it, "a slight deja vu feeling".

Why is an Indians skin dark when his summers are so short? No, that is not the beginning of a joke, but as the weather forecasters had promised us an Indian summer, which has not materialised, I still regard their ability to forecast weather as a joke.

As I write we have managed to start drilling again and with only a small amount of winter barley and wheat behind maize left to drill we are in a substantially better position than we were this time last year. Most of the crops drilled so far have had a pre-emergence spray except for 40ha (100 acres) which took just five days from drilling to emergence, a period which coincided with the wet weather.

That will have to be done post-emergence, but fortunately we do not have a blackgrass problem, so a cheap-and-cheerful ipu/dff mix should do the job.

We have achieved excellent control of flea beetle in oilseed rape this year with the use of Chinook (imidacloprid + betacyfluthrin) seed-dressing. But I have to say that when the plants emerged they did look under stress with very dark leaves. That suggests to me that the Chinook might be a bit hot. Now the oilseed rape is making good progress and we are applying 37kg/ha (30 units/acre) of nitrogen to ensure good ground cover and deter the flocks of pigeons that will no doubt arrive as the winter sets in. &#42

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Tim Piper

14 September 2001

Tim Piper

Tim Piper farms at

Churchlands on the edge

of Romney Marsh, Kent.

Wheat, barley, oilseed rape,

herbage seed and vining

peas occupy 890ha

(2200 acres) of the

1105ha (2730 acre) unit

BOUTS of wet weather since the start of September made finishing harvest a protracted affair. However, it is all done now bar maize silage which wont be long.

Straw has been baled and cleared. Hopefully we will have enough to see us through the winter provided we get an open autumn and the cattle can stay out to the end of October.

Oilseed rape, or rather canola, has been drilled into ideal seed-beds and what has emerged so far is untroubled by slugs. As usual, we have sprayed with pre-emergence Butisan (metazachlor) at 0.75 litres/ha plus 2.3 litres/ha of trifluralin.

With last years wet weather scenario still crystal clear in my memory, we have also made tentative start drilling wheat.

Seed-beds are good, but due to reduced germination in the over-yeared seed we are using quite a high rate for the time of year. Pre-emergence linuron plus trifluralin would normally follow but because they are both a bit hot that mix will not be used. I do not want to put seed of already suspect vigour under any more pressure.

As a precaution 5kg/ha of mini-pellets have been applied to areas which have a history of slug problems. Another 5kg/ha will follow after rolling which should do the job.

Our main wheats this autumn will be tried and tested varieties Claire, Consort and Marshall. Small amounts of Tanker, Deben and Hyno Esta will be grown on a look-see basis, the latter two as second wheats. If they perform we could start to put more second wheat into the rotation.

That said, one pleasant surprise from this harvest was the performance of spring wheat. Chablis sown in early February did well, early March sowings were not so good, but late March/early April drilled crops were exceptional. Quality looks good, too.

Winter barleys going in this autumn are Siberia and Pearl. Hopefully, by the time my next article hits your doormat those and the wheat will all be drilled. &#42

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Tim Piper

28 January 2000

Tim Piper

Tim Piper

Tim Piper farms at

Churchlands on the edge

of Romney Marsh, Kent.

Wheat, barley, oilseed rape,

herbage seed and vining

peas occupy 890ha

(2200 acres) of the

1105ha (2730 acre) unit

JANUARY is disappearing rapidly and spring is just around the corner.

In the last couple of weeks our crops have changed from looking a little hungry to active growth. It is as if they have had a bag of nitrogen. We have applied large amounts of farm yard manure in recent years and I hope we are starting to see a tangible benefit, other than maintaining phosphate and potash levels that is. Could this extra greenness be translated into a yield increase or will it prove to be cosmetic? Last year we applied 18,000t of FYM across the farm.

Hopefully, soil conditions will soon improve so we can spray our newly sown herbage seeds. A mixture of Nortron (ethofumesate), ioxymil and bromoxynil should take out blackgrass, meadowgrass and broadleaved weeds.

Final out-turn on the first batch of grass seed from last harvest has arrived and I am particularly pleased to have only lost 1.5t in cleaning from 33t delivered. That might make up for the derisory price that Advanta seem to think they are going to pay us. Now they have pulled out of grass seed production they have no interest in looking after their growers. Maybe in the future as the pound weakens – one can but hope – inferior quality, cheap imports from Europe will dry up. UK livestock will be more profitable, demanding more quality English grass seed. Advanta might well regret their decision.

Last years seed peas are being collected and this years contracts have been set on the same terms as last year.

I find it hard to believe how much the rainfall varies from one side of the county to the other. Here, the 25-year average is 660mm (26in) but in east Kent I am led to believe it is just 460mm (18in). Having said that, last year we received 910mm (36in) and the last six years have all been well above average. Are the global warming warnings right or are we due a run of dry years? &#42

Six years of above average rainfall. Is it global warming, asks Kent grower Tim Piper.

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