Comin' through the ryegrass

Annual Ryegrass seed from the back of the header is collected in this cart to prevent scattering the seed of herbicide resistant plants over the paddock.

A clever piece of machinery designed by a grower to slow the spread of ryegrass may be on its way to the showroom floor. And this way of collecting ryegrass seed could one day earn farmers money.

Corrigan farmer Eddie Abe developed a simple trailer towed behind a header to collect ryegrass seed as it comes off the back of the header, preventing its spread across the paddock. The bulk of the chaff coming over is not collected.

Annual Ryegrass has become resistant to herbicides in many cropping areas. Intensive/continuous cropping areas are being hit soonest and hardest. Many farmers don't think it is practical to convert to two or more years of pasture to delay the arrival of herbicide resistance.

Bill Roy runs the cart development project for Agricultural Consulting and Research Services of York, WA, with funding from growers through the GRDC.

Research and development

Trials showed that pulling a cart behind a header is feasible and that in terms of handling materials, the idea is practical.

An important area for further investigation before commercialisation is the transfer of material from header to cart.

The prototype used a covered belt which didn't work very well. Researchers are now looking at the possibility of combining fan-driven positive air pressure with suction (negative) pressure.

There are other remaining problems, and Eddie Abe is the first to sound a note of caution.

"At the moment we can't handle all the chaff coming off the riddle," said M . Abe. "What are we going to do with such a large heap? But whatever the solution, I am sure there is a place for this idea."

Waste ryegrass as fuel?

Mr Roy said that disposal of the collected seed could actually provide a bonus to the farmer in the future. In the short term the easiest means of disposal is burning, but in the longer term there may be possibilities for this waste material to be used as energy and protein in feedlots, or converted to ethanol fuel.

"The challenge is that in solving one problem a whole new productive arena could be opened up," he said. (Ed note: The idea is not far-fetched. Earlier this year the Commonwealth pledged funding for a demonstration plant that would produce ethanol from waste agricultural material).

Mr Roy believes the future might also hold some potential for other seeds to be treated in a similar manner.

"Any seed which is still held upright a' harvest time could, in theory, be collected," he said.

CONTACT: Mr Bill Roy 096 41 1080