Wheat School: Seed Destructor enters third year of research in Canada

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The Harrington Seed Destructor made its foray into Canadian agriculture in 2014, offering with it an opportunity to increase integrated pest  management strategies on-farm, by mechanically reducing weed seed banks at harvest. It is now into its third year of a research study looking at its impact on weed populations over time.

In this Wheat School, Breanne Tidemann, research specialist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) at Lacombe, Alta, explains the origins of the Destructor, and the research AAFC has conducted in Alberta around the machine.

“The Harrington Seed Destructor was developed in Australia. The idea behind it was from producer Ray Harrington — so it really was a farmer idea — and he was looking for a new way to manage his rye grass,” she explains. “It is a cage mill, with two separate cage mills that spin in opposite directions really really fast. The weeds and the chaff come into the middle,  and they are trying to get out of that mill and through the system, and they get bounced and bonked around a whole bunch of times, and essentially broken down because of that.

“So what the seed destructor does is it takes the chaff out of the combine, puts it through the mill, and puts the pulverized material back onto the field.”

She notes that when AAFC originally bought their Destructor in 2014, a pull-behind was all that was available. But since then, the Harrington Seed Destructor has upgraded.

“Now, five years later, these machines are actually all built into combines. So they go straight into the back of a combine. You don’t have this big tow behind bulky machine that you have to deal with. It’s all built into the back of the combine under your spreaders,” says Tidemann, adding it’s become a bit of a booming industry. “Now there’s actually two competitors to the Seed Destructor as well. And one of the competitors is actually a Canadian company that just launched last week.” (Story continues below player)

When it comes to results from the machine, Tidemann says AAFC has been partnering with 20 producer fields since 2017 to test it out.

“We’ve gone and found weed patches in their fields, and we’re harvesting with our combine and Seed Destructor. What that allows is to do is we can put out treatments with the Harrington Seed Destructor running, as well as just a normal combined harvest. So not touching it at all. That allows us to compare our weed populations over time, to see if we are actually driving those population numbers down with the seed destructor.”

Tidemann notes that the research is still pretty preliminary, as they only have data from the first year of harvest, and are still working on 2018 results.

“After one year of harvest what we did see is if you averaged across all 20 of our fields, we do tend to have fewer weeds in the Seed Destructor treatments than we do in the normal harvest. It’s not significant, but we didn’t expect it to be after one year,” she explains. “Because we have weed seed banks, we are not going to see immediate impacts of this, which is why we are doing it over three years.”

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