Harvest trials of the Tecfarm Seed Mill have now been successfully completed over three seasons in two variants, as well as extensive static bed tests over hundreds of hours and five years since initial concept and patenting.
Update: December 22nd 2020. WeedHOG’s have performed well in the 2020 harvest with the only issue being foreign objects (steel impeller paddles!) entering the mill and causing rotor imbalance. This was easily rectified by changing to a very tough nylon as the material for the paddles. Green stemmed 1.5-2 tonnes/ha canola crops on WA’s south coast and central wheatbelt were handled easily as were cereals at up to 3.5 tonnes/ha. Indications are good for heavier crops. Rotor bar wear is surprisingly low. No drive problems were encountered on any machine.
Seed kill percentages are looking good and a wide spread of samples are being assessed using temperature controlled petri dish tests to give quick indications and large replicated plots simulating field conditions are being setup as harvest finishes. We believe this approach gives a very good indication of what can be expected in the paddock because it closely represents timing of harvest operations and mirrors as closely as possible, the true effect of the mill.
Throughout 2020, Tecfarm has concentrated on refining the WeedHOGS’ simple design and prioritising fitting the mills to the various harvester models. This work is yielding exciting results. Mills for Case harvesters and New Holland CR models are in production and John Deere STS and the later S series are under development. Wider availability is a priority.
The Tecfarm design teams’ goal was to provide a simple and reliable Harvest Weed Seed Control Mill that is affordable for as many farms as possible. The innovative design stands alone in the field of seed milling, quite different from cage mill based designs, with a unique mode of action via exchange of seeds across a gap between two adjacent circular housings, into the path of opposing high speed impact bars. The WeedHOGs’ engineering is quite simple, but uses complex interactions of air and material. Much research has been devoted to gaining an understanding of the physics involved
Development: After limited field trials during the 2018 harvest with a unit mounted on a Case 9120 and many hours of test bed work, 2019 harvest trials were conducted in the Western Australian Central Wheatbelt over an extended period, with a pre-production unit operating on a Case 7230 in several crop types. This unit has since been purchased by the farmer who trialled the machine. 2018 harvest results showed a big reduction in Annual Ryegrass germination(the main winter crop weed in Southern Australia) using large grow out plots, trays and petri dishes as well as field counts.
2019 was a year of intense work on small variations of the principle involved. The advanced prototype trialled during 2018 harvest was studied at length, refined and given higher capacity. This was achieved by doubling the effective area within the mill, the “Quad Rotor” design and adding additional impact points on each rotor to give greater efficiency.
A consistently high direct kill out of the mill was obtained, with mounting evidence through research here and overseas as far back as 1958, indicating that complete destruction is not necessary to render seeds unviable after several months exposure in a field environment. Observations by Tecfarm personnel verified this phenomenon quite early in testing. It has very big implications for how much energy is required for long term weed control using a mill. As well as Wimmera rye grass, larger weed and volunteer crop seeds have practically a total kill. The low power requirement of the WeedHOG means most harvesters are capable of sufficient power and likely not to require aftermarket ‘remapping/chipping’ of engines to obtain a power boost.
Tecfarm is also aiming to providing a mill that is suited to the smaller harvesters as soon as practicable. The low power requirement for this design makes it an achievable goal.
It has been observed during R & D that as well as completely destroying a large percentage, the mill damages a high proportion of the remaining seeds. Chaff material tends to be left somewhat intact with a low amount of very fine material. This may be a reason for the units’ observed low power requirement. The 2019 Quad Rotor Mill indicated power use at around 40HP (30Kw). Energy is not wasted in making a high proportion of dusty, fine particles.
A major reason for the persistence of annual ryegrass in cropland is its tendency for high levels of dormant seed preventing full germination in any one generation. After passing through this mill the small number of seeds escaping a total kill are observed to have almost all suffered damage and if not subject to infield degradation, appear to have their natural high level of dormancy broken, a trait that is useful to allow spraying out early in the cropping season. Attack by soil borne fungi, microbial activity etc. is also something that seems to happen to damaged seed that has had its’ protective coat compromised. This environmental aspect of the effect of seed mills on seed viability has been seen here at Tecfarm and also observed by US researchers. https://aces.illinois.edu/news/harrington-seed-destructor-kills-nearly-100-us-agronomic-weed-seeds-lab-study It means that quite possibly the need for total destruction of seed is not necessary for good control. This has very practical implications for mill design going forward. Attack by soil fauna and pathogens after even minimal damage to seed coats is very beneficial in giving ‘free’ control.
Features of the WeedHOG:
- Low capital cost
- Simple fitting on farm
- Good efficacy on common weed species and volunteer crop seeds
- Unique self-centering rotor design eliminates expensive specialised balancing
- Easy maintenance and low cost rotor bar replacement
- Impact bars are rotatable to maximise service life
- Bar sets can be added or removed to suit field/crop conditions and power availability
- Simple changeover to windrow mode
- Integral Bolt Traps
The future: With successful engineering and efficacy tests carried out during 2018, 2019 and 2020 harvests, commercial release in Australia is approved for 2021 harvest.
Give us a call anytime if you would like to have a chat. Tom: 0428 611 309. Matt: 0447 180 958.
The Tecfarm weed mill is protected under one or more of the following patents: Provisional patent application 2015903508. International patent application PCT/AU2016/050802. National patent applications USA PCT/AU2016/050802 // Australia No.2016314137. European Union No.P20150710 // Canada PCT/AU2016/050802