THE launch of the Harrington Seed Destructor (HSD) by the Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative (AHRI) has celebrated the development of the unique weed seed control technology which promises to improve the profitability of grain growers.
It comes as the first two commercially manufactured HSDs have been sold to Western Australian farmers for intended use this harvest, with more interest in orders from Australian growers for next year.
The HSD is the brainchild of WA farmer Ray Harrington, and its development has been funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and led by AHRI, based at The University of Western Australia (UWA).
Towed behind a harvester like a chaff cart, it crushes and destroys at least 95 per cent of weed seeds that exit the header in the chaff during harvest, reducing the emergence of weeds which limit the profitability of Australian farming systems.
Mr Harrington told the UWA launch on August 27 that he came up with the idea for the HSD when he sold his sheep and devoted his Darkan property to cropping in 1996.
“I knew I had to come up with a way of either cremating, catching, crushing, cooking or carting weed seeds at harvest time because my Wheatbelt cousins with cropping enterprises had already run into problems with weed control and herbicide resistance,” he said.
Mr Harrington said the development of the HSD had been a wonderful journey involving committed and skilled collaborators, including AHRI director Stephen Powles, AHRI researcher Michael Walsh, Don Hare of Great Southern Engineers and the GRDC’s Paul Meibusch.
But there were still challenges to be overcome before the technology became a standard part of harvest weed seed management.
“A key challenge will be to have the technology incorporated into new harvesters, not just retrofitted to existing headers, and this will improve its cost effectiveness,” Mr Harrington said.
GRDC commercial farm technologies manager Paul Meibusch said the HSD was an innovative idea which, aided by four years of GRDC funding, had progressed to a product that growers could use to improve their profitability and sustainability.
“Innovative ideas can come from many sources and the GRDC is committed to being open to these ideas and providing support to help test and develop them,” he said.
“The HSD is proof that investigation and support of a promising idea can lead to fantastic success.”
AHRI researcher Michael Walsh said it was a significant achievement that the HSD - an idea from a small farming community - had progressed to commercialisation and had the potential to make a difference to agricultural systems globally.
Dr Walsh said 2011 trials in south-eastern Australia, led by AHRI with support from the GRDC and the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), had further confirmed the efficacy of the HSD in reducing annual ryegrass emergence and controlling herbicide resistant populations.
“Evaluation of the HSD under commercial harvest conditions in different states by AHRI over the last two seasons has shown that it is equally as effective as two other harvest weed seed control systems – chaff carts and windrow burning – in reducing the emergence of annual ryegrass and other problem weeds,” he said.
“All three systems reduce weed emergence significantly – by an average of about 55 per cent.
“But, unlike chaff carts and windrow burning, the HSD has the advantage of conserving all crop residues and does not require post-harvest management activities.”
Dr Walsh said the HSD would continue to be demonstrated in a range of crops and environments to build knowledge and confidence in its application.
“In addition, manufacturer de Bruin Engineering is keen to finetune the HSD by working closely with farmers who’ve ordered the HSD,” he said.
Dr Walsh said stakeholders involved with the development of the HSD were keen to promote the HSD internationally and a United States trip was planned.
“This trip will collect information on the potential for Australian-developed harvest weed seed control strategies to be used in combating herbicide resistant weeds in the US,” he said.