THE MANUFACTURERS of a harvest weed seed control (HWSC) unit are scaling up after successful trials.
Nick Berry, research and development manager with South Australian-based Seed Terminator said the company was looking to produce 100 units ahead of the 2019-20 harvest.
Dr Berry said the production followed three years of testing, with 50 units used in 121 full paddock trials across a range of crop types last year in Western Australia, South Australia, NSW and Victoria.
"We aim for this to be a future proof technology platform, able to slot in the latest mill technology available in two, five or 10 years' time," he said.
"It's gone really well, we're seeing some super numbers in terms of weed kill."
He said ryegrass seed numbers had been reduced by between 96 and 100 per cent in trials.
"Ryegrass is the major problem weed for most growers, especially with growing herbicide resistance and a lack of in-crop options in cereal phases, so it is good to be able to get this sort of control, even when the ryegrass maturity differed from that of the crop."
He said there were also good results with other weed seeds.
"We are seeing other weeds become more problematic, such as wild radish and other broadleaf species and they can have small seeds which are difficult to pick up but the units are working well."
The units are retro-fitted to the harvester and belt driven off the tractor PTO.
Dr Berry said the Seed Terminator unit could be fitted to both new and used John Deere, Case IH, Massey Ferguson, Claas and New Holland headers.
"We have worked with the major five brands so far, which covers the vast majority of the market."
In terms of horse power requirements, in most operating conditions it will needabout 80-120 hp.
"Unfortunately there is a fundamental energy requirement that is needed to kill weed seeds that we cannot get away from," he said.
"If you are not using power you are not killing seeds."
"We were pleasantly surprised at the efficiency, we thought in tough conditions it could have been a little higher in terms of power used," Dr Berry said.
The system works utilising a multi-stage hammer mill.
The seeds, collected with the chaff component of the harvest trash, are pulverised in three stages, each stage grinding up the seeds further.
Dr Berry said the process was unique in that it was able to kill weed seeds over a range of rotational speeds, which is important when the machine is mechanically driven and can lose speed with changes in engine revs per minute.
The fine dust is then distributed evenly out the back of the header, separate to the straw.
Dr Berry said it had no impact on the following year's sowing program.
"Because it is so fine, it just breaks down, it may even act as a bit of a soil conditioner, adding extra organic matter."
Dr Berry said with the increased focus on non-chemical means of weed control, HWSC was set to become more prevalent.
"I'd say every grower had heard of HWSC and further down the track it's likely it will become industry standard.
"Running down the weed seed bank is the key in keeping weed numbers down long term, you can have effective chemistry but if you don't get rid of those seeds you will struggle to keep on top of the weed burden."
The Seed Terminator team are not just looking at Australia.
Dr Berry said a unit had been exported to Canada and had worked well there.
He said the North American market, while not as aware of HWSC as a concept, was a big growth opportunity.
"Due to the farming systems there, with the freeze over winter, there probably hasn't been the pressure on herbicides we have had here, but we've certainly seen it become something they look at.
"Harvesting in colder conditions means the crop is tougher and we were interested to see if that had any impact on how the unit worked but it passed with flying colours in field conditions."
This year, he said of the 100 units constructed, 80 would go to Aussie farmers, 10 for research and 10 for export