The RAGT Seeds farm at Trumpington outside Cambridge has 20 combines, most of which are small plot combines, ready to bring in the company‘s trial plots and seed multiplication areas.

“We normally run about eight, and can push to 12 at a stretch, but we have a total of 20 sitting in the shed,” said farm manager Harry Henderson.

It is one of the two Sampo 1.5m cut plot combines that has started on 7ha (17 acres) of rape plots.

The company is managing these under contract for Monsanto, which sold its cereals business to RAGT earlier this year.

“We‘re doing experimental stuff – screening new varieties for yield potential – at the moment.”

He had no yield or moisture results when we spoke to him, but was expecting the best plot to be “fairly mediocre”.

“The rape‘s not looking its best and there‘s some we‘ve given up on,” commented Mr Henderson.

“We had a bit of a battle herbicide-wise in the dry autumn last year.”

Caracas and Canberra are among the varieties, all conventional, in the plots, along with “a lot of pipeline stuff”.

The farm has taken on 8-9 students and other casual workers to help bring in the harvest.

Things will really get busy when they start the 20ha (50 acres) of winter wheat plots and 4ha (10 acres) of spring barley.

There is another 95ha (235 acres) of seed multiplication areas to bring in, with most plots no bigger than 1.4ha (3.5 acres).

“They‘re all looking fairly good. Just a little bit of a grass weed problem,” said Mr Henderson.