Keith Challen modifies his Solo rape drill

Having just returned from a Monsanto trip to their Dekalb oilseed rape breeding farm at Boissay in the Paris basin, now I understand why hybrid seed is expensive.

The work that’s involved in bringing new varieties to the market is quite staggering, not to mention the complexity of the whole process. However, one thing’s for sure, growing rape is going to get more interesting.

We’ve been having a spring clean, more of a tidy up really and have a few items we no longer use, so I’ve entered them in our neighbouring estate’s machinery dispersal sale. One of the items, a DOE 130, or should I say the rear tractor from a DOE 130, has been on farm from new since the late 1960s; if only she hadn’t been dismantled, who knows what she would be worth? Anyway she will be sold as a Doe-badged Ford 5000 and, hopefully, someone might buy her and return her to former glory.

The workshop has been a hive of activity this month while it’s been wet, with modifications to our Solo rape drill. I’ve swapped the Seed Hawk knife coulter to a copy of a friend’s machine. Hopefully, he hasn’t applied for a patent. The new coulter design is based on a levelling board paddle with a small coulter protruding underneath, hopefully guaranteeing very accurate seed depth in a bid to reduce plant populations even further.

Finally, I would like to apologise to the fisherman on the Grantham canal that runs through the farm. Millie wasn’t aware that they were taking part in a fishing match, the season’s final and their last chance to catch a big one until mid-June. I tried to explain that my Labrador was stirring up the bottom and in fact would help attract fish – they didn’t see it that way. Luckily I was on the opposite bank, so we made a hasty get away.

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Farmer Focus: Keith Challen

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