A weed seed destructor invented by a Darkan farmer and further developed by the WA Herbicide Resistance Initiative (WAHRI) at The University of Western Australia is set to be trialled this harvest.
Inventor and farmer Ray Harrington said weeds were his single biggest problem, in particular ryegrass and wild radish, which have evolved resistance to several herbicides making them difficult to control.
"I adapted an 85 year-old mining technology to build a high-impact, high-speed cage mill which destroys 90-95 per cent of weed seeds, preventing them from germinating," Mr Harrington said. "This discovery came after years of trying other methods of destroying weed seed including catching and carting, cooking and cremating."
Mr Harrington said meeting UWA's Winthrop Professor Stephen Powles was the turning point in the development of the ‘Harrington Seed Destructor'.
"Steve was a guest speaker at a No-Till Farming Association reunion in Kojonup and I told him about the mill. He said he had a gut feeling that it would work and made the decision to trial it. Since then the Grains Research and Development Corporation has been heavily involved with this project, by funding trials and the development of the machine."
The destructor is towed behind a header at harvest. The header separates the chaff fraction containing weed seeds from the straw, which is fed into the mill. This pulverises any weed seeds in the chaff fraction and returns it to the paddock.
Prototypes of the destructor are being built at Great Southern Engineering in Kojonup and will be sold for about $120,000. Some farmers spend up to $450,000 annually on herbicides, which must be applied twice a year. The destructor also alleviates the need for burning chaff dumps, burning narrow windrows or whole-paddock burning.
WAHRI Research Agronomist Dr Michael Walsh will lead this project with testing commencing in the northern wheatbelt from November and moving south. It is planned to be trialled nationally during harvest in 2011.
Winthrop Professor Stephen Powles (+61 8) 6488 7844 / (+61 4) 18 927 181
Ray Harrington (Darkan inventor) (+ 61 4 ) 27 363 004
Janine MacDonald (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 5563 / (+61 4) 32 637 716