We grow sugar beet and tic beans in our crop rotation. We are not a big fan of chemical weed control as it is expensive and unreliable and some chemicals are being deleted from use. We prefer an old fashioned approach such as our fathers and grandfathers used.

In the past, we have used rear mounted hoes behind a small Ferguson tractor, but this takes two personnel and often they finish up arguing with one another as they have to drive carefully and sometimes what one does, counteracts the actions of the other.

There is on the market several especially made self-propelled tool carriers made by the Dutch, Germans and Italians but are very expensive, so we wanted something which was cheap and cheerful yet effective.

The prime mover of this machine is the engine transmission, hydraulics and rear wheels from an old Bamford dumper truck. These are readily available as the dumper part always wears out, but the Lister engine on it will run forever.

Very economical and trouble free but quite noisy. You will need earmuffs! Or, you could use a battery driven electric motor rechargeable from solar panels.

We take the old hard tin seat off and we put on a second hand seat from out of a big Volvo car, as we find that these are very comfortable. You can rest your back and do not lean forward with these seats and it makes the job easier and you do not get backache.

We also put on a larger capacity diesel tank and normally we can go two days or longer without filling. The front part was made by a fellow farmer, a neighbour who is a lot better at welding mechanics than we are. We are in the process of getting drawings done and a cutting list so that people can manufacture themselves.

The advantages of this machine are that it is a one man operation, its ability to hoe more accurate because you can see at all times what the blades are doing and a skilful operator can set the adjustable “L – blades” so they are only leaving an inch clearance for the roe crop.

It’s a super job on nice, sunny days – it is very easy to steer and because you can see the entire width of the hoe you can see if there are any blockages with any weeds, stones and lumps of soil etc. We could cover about 20 acres a day.

We found the only problem with it was that the seat was so comfortable and the heat was so lovely and warm, that there was a tendency to fall asleep! The tiller/rudder is very easy to get used too especially if you regard it as a big steering wheel and you are steering it from the bottom of the wheel.

The hoe unit itself was a Nicholson made by a firm in Cambridgeshire who in the 1950’s, 60’s & 70’s made a really excellent tractor hoe with spring loaded blades and multi adjustments for depth, width and pressure.

This was our very first choice of hoe, though you can use any hoe that will fit behind any tractor that has a three point linkage. Narrow front rubber tyres are fitted so it will go down the rows when the crops are nearly meeting.

It has a very tight turning circle so that at the end of the row as you come out of one breed you can turn straight into the next. We grow our sugar beet on six twenty inch rows and our tic beans on five twenty inch rows. Its top speed down the road between jobs is about 16 miles per hour.

We are seriously thinking of fitting to the rear of the engine unit a three point linkage with a hay turner type rake so that it can flick the weeds growing in the middle of the rows, as in the UK there are several types of hay turners that will do this type of job.

The cost of building the machine was £450 about fifteen years ago but we used a lot of old metal work we had surplus from other jobs and this did not included the Bomford engine unit which was from a scrap yard at about scrap price of approx £70.