NEW technology to crush weeds at seed set stage has progressed to commercial production – and a South Australian company has been granted the license.
The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) has awarded the licensing of one of the most anticipated technologies in Australian agriculture – the Harrington Seed Destructor – to de Bruin Engineering of Mount Gambier, SA.
Designed to destroy weed seeds in chaff during harvest, the first HSD is expected to be commercially available in time for this year’s harvest.
The HSD is the brainchild of Western Australian grain grower and inventor Ray Harrington, and its development has been funded by the GRDC and assisted by the Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative (AHRI) and the University of South Australia’s Agricultural Engineering department, which collaborated on the design.
Towed behind a harvester like a chaff cart, the HSD has been designed around a cage mill crushing unit originally developed for use in the mining industry.
It has been subject to extensive multi-State trials, evaluations and modifications – a process that will continue for the rest of the year.
GRDC manager of commercial farm technologies, Paul Meibusch, said the commercial launch of the HSD was a major advance for the grains industry in its weed herbicide resistance battle.
“With herbicide resistance becoming an increasingly serious and expensive concern for Australian agriculture, technology such as the HSD is a significant step forward in developing a sustainable and integrated approach to weed management,” Mr Meibusch said.
The first unit is in the advanced planning stage, and de Bruin’s in-house engineers have already made a number of improvements based on feedback from growers and researchers who observed and inspected the HSD during trials conducted last harvest.
Trials and evaluations have been overseen by AHRI researcher Dr Michael Walsh, who is based at the University of WA. Dr Walsh is continuing to assess the efficacy of the unit and will also work with grain grower groups across Australia to train potential users of the HSD.
Dr Walsh’s research over the past five years showed that during a grain crop harvest a significant proportion of the seed produced by weed populations (between 73-99 per cent, depending on the species) is collected by harvesters and then redistributed back across the field. By intercepting this seed and making it non-viable, a considerable portion of the following year’s weed population can be controlled.
When Ray Harrington switched from mixed farming to broadacre cropping 17 years ago he realised herbicide resistance in annual ryegrass was a serious threat to crop production.
“I decided that if I could manage weed seed set at harvest I would have a chance to combat the weed problem - and after looking at all the options and logistics, crushing the seed seemed to be the answer,” Mr Harrington said.
Adapting the cage mill technology used in the mining industry for initial experiments, the first seed destructor prototype was developed and tested on Mr Harrington’s farm in 2006.
Mr Harrington expressed his gratitude to the GRDC for its investment in development of the HSD.
“Without the GRDC’s partnership, this project would never have got off the ground.”