After 26 years managing a conventional farm, James Willmott changed his approach completely when he joined RAGT Seeds as Arable Operations Manager.
RAGT Seeds, based in Saffron Walden, Essex is a leading plant breeder, responsible for the development of wheat varieties for the whole of Europe on behalf of its French-based parent company, RAGT Semences.
“A different mindset is needed when you are involved in plant breeding,” James Willmott explains. “It’s not rushing around, doing things quickly on a big scale. We drill upwards of 30,000 individual plots so it’s all about attention to detail and extremely careful planning and preparation. All the machinery and equipment has to be kept spotlessly-clean to avoid cross-contamination. Everything has to be done absolutely right with precision and accuracy. We look after every single grain!”
The latest tractor to join RAGT’s machinery ranks is an MF 7718 S Dyna-6, 4WD which adds to the existing Massey Ferguson fleet of an MF 6613, MF 5711 SL, MF 5710 SL, MF 5610 plus three older MF 352 tractors. All the tractors are leased from local MF dealer, Thurlow Nunn Standen (TNS) at Littleport.
Plots for the initial stage of seed development range in size from 1.5m wide up to a maximum of 12m long. After extensive analysis in the lab, the promising seed varieties are taken forward for planting in 3ha plots. Applications such as herbicides and fungicides are precisely controlled. “Our soils here vary but that’s just what we need to conduct our trials,” says James. “In a single field it can go from heavy clay to chalky and flinty. Within a 15 mile radius of Saffron Walden, there’s virtually every type of soil in the country.”
The 200 max hp MF 7718 S Efficient arrived in July 2018 and gets involved in all the land preparation, working with a subsoiler, plough, roller, tine-press and compactor, as well as doing duty hauling grain trailers. “The tractor is very good,” says James. “The extra horsepower compared to our previous model has really helped improve the handling of our implements. It’s has made our seedbed preparation so much easier.”
“We spoke to Jim Sculthorpe at TNS about what we needed from the new tractor. We certainly didn’t want a lot of complicated controls, just something that did its job well - which is exactly what you get with the MF 7718 S. It’s very easy to drive, comfortable and quiet. With MF tractors, the controls are similar across the ranges and so we are very familiar with them which makes it straightforward for the team of operators when they switch from model to model. Next year, we are looking to add another MF 5710 S.”
“I have to admit I’d never used Massey Ferguson tractors before I came to RAGT three years ago,” he adds. “I hadn’t appreciated just how good they are.”
“The extra horsepower compared to our previous model has really helped improve the handling of our implements. It’s has made our seedbed preparation so much easier.”
"We certainly didn’t want a lot of complicated controls, just something that did its job well - which is exactly what you get with the MF 7718 S. It’s very easy to drive, comfortable and quiet."