Researchers at The University of Western Australia who invented a new technique for ‘flaming’ wild seeds have been nominated as finalists in the WA Innovator of the Year competition.
The flash flaming of seeds allows them to be used more easily in replanting large tracts of land that need to be revegetated such as reclaimed mine sites and degraded agricultural lands.
Agricultural Engineer and Assistant Professor at UWA’s School of Mechanical and Chemical Engineering Andrew Guzzomi said the team from UWA and Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority were “delighted” to make it through to the finals in the emerging innovation category.
Dr Todd Erickson, of UWA’s School of Plant Biology, said the scientists used seeds of spinifex, the dominant plants of desert grasslands that cover up to 70 per cent of inland Australia.
“Successful large-scale restoration of mine sites relies on the effective use of seeds from wild or native species. However, it’s been found that plant regeneration from these seeds is poor, with more than 90 percent of them failing,” Dr Erickson said.
Assistant Professor Guzzomi said the unique technique carefully burns off the fluffy appendages that appear on many wild seeds, which in the past made them difficult to handle and ‘coat’ for large-scale remote restoration.
“Native grass seeds are typically highly irregular in shape, with surface hairs and awns that make them very difficult to work with.
“Through modifying a rotary seed coater with an engineered flaming apparatus, we developed a novel flash flaming technique which carefully removes the appendages without subjecting the seed to damaging heat energy,” he said.
The multi-disciplinary team that made the discovery comprised Assistant Professor Guzzomi and final year project student Alan Ling from the UWA School of Mechanical and Chemical Engineering, researchers Dr Todd Erickson, Dr David Merritt and Professor Kingsley Dixon from King’s Park and Botanic Garden and UWA School of Plant Biology.
Winners of the WA Innovator of the Year (IOTY) program, which has showcased innovative and entrepreneurial individuals and businesses since 2006, will be announced at a special awards ceremony on 2 November.
Dr Andrew Guzzomi (UWA School of Mechanical and Chemical Engineering) (+61 8) 6488 3883
Jess Reid (A/UWA Media and Public Relations Manager) (+61 8) 6488 6876 / (+61 4) 13 105 200