The South Australian-invented Seed Terminator, which pulverises weed seeds as crops are harvested, is being trialled during this month’s harvest in Washington and Missouri, USA and Saskatchewan, Canada.
It is the fourth year of production for the Seed Terminator following the release of nine pilot units in 2016, 23 in 2017 and 50 last year, which have taken part in 121 full field trials on a range of crop types in major grain-growing regions across southern Australia.
The Seed Terminator retails for about $110,000 and can be retrofitted to new and used John Deere, Case IH, Massey Ferguson, Claas and New Holland class 7, 8, 9 and 10 harvesters. The ‘one-pass solution’ uses two multi-stage hammer mills to pulverise weed seeds then spreads the sawdust-like, nutrient-rich debris 10 to 13.5m behind the harvester to act as a fine mulch for improved soil health. It also reduces the need for herbicides and labour intensive burn-offs to keep weeds at bay after harvest.
Tests by the University of Adelaide’s Weed Science Research Group have shown a 96 to 100 per cent kill of rye grass seeds using the machine. Testing has focused on rye grass seeds because of their minuscule size and the fact that they are notoriously difficult to kill.
Inventor and Kangaroo Island farmer Dr Nick Berry founded the company with his uncle Mark Ashenden. Ashenden says that the product, which has undergone design improvements after every season so far, is ready for full commercial production. It has already proven to be effective in Canadian conditions after Berry’s cousin, a farmer near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan trialled one machine last year. This year, he will be doing side-by-side trials with four headers, two with Terminators and two without.
“We want to be able to further prove that the Seed Terminator works in their conditions again this season with a view to having a limited commercial release next year,” Ashenden says. “There’s a lot of interest from the Canadian Government as they are concerned about the environmental impacts of agriculture and also a couple of research universities over there.”
In Missouri, a unit will be used during the soybean harvest, with the results assessed by the University of Missouri’s Weed Science. In Washington, a unit has been adapted for use on the undulating terrain there, and the trial has generated interest from Washington State University researchers. A fourth machine was sent to Europe for testing earlier this year and has recently completed a harvest there.
The Adelaide-based company has just manufactured its 100th machine ahead of this year’s Australian grain harvest, which begins in October. Ashenden says the latest round of upgrades for the 2019 model included further enhancements to improve wear and reduce power draw and the addition of magnets to intercept stray metal before it enters the unit.
“We think this year is our first true commercial release after three years of trials with a growing number of partners,” he says. “We’re designing a scalable manufacturing plan for 100 units this year that will allow us to grow rapidly.”
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