An Australian farming in Canada is using a hammer mill on his combine to reduce his dependence on herbicide applications.
Now farming in Saskatchewan, the producer brought a Seed Terminator from Down Under to test its pulverizing abilities on prairie weed seeds this harvest.
Why it matters: Alternative weed control methods will gain added importance as the prevalence of herbicide-resistant weeds grows and consumers press for less herbicide use.
“Nick Berry, who is also my first cousin, invented it,” said Josh Lade.
“We were both pretty apprehensive on how it was going to go, like the tough conditions are a lot different to the Australian harvest we’re used to, but it worked flawlessly. We couldn’t believe how well it handled the conditions and this harvest wasn’t exactly easy.”
A Seed Terminator is a hammer mill that’s installed in the rear of a combine to destroy weed seeds in the chaff discharge.
Lade farms in a partnership with three other producers near Osler, Sask., after a work-experience trip in 2010 led him to start “living my dream,” he said.
However, some of the growing strategies used by Canadian producers, including overreliance on a handful of herbicides, concerned him because he has witnessed first-hand how herbicide-resistant weeds can devastate the industry.
“I can see the writing on the wall, with the spraying of glyphosate,” Lade said.
“I can see that this isn’t going to last. It hasn’t worked in my homeland, so I wanted to use a version of the mill and put it to work before my back is against the wall like many Australian grain growers are.”
It took Lade 24 hours to install the latest version of the Seed Terminator in his John Deere S680 combine.
“It’s situated right between the end of the chafing deck, like the grain sieves, and the straw chopper. So the straw chopper just gets moved back a bit and this unit gets placed in between there,” Lade said.
The Seed Terminator is belt driven, and in the JD S680 combine there are two belt settings for the chopper. Lade said he uses only the fast speed so he was able to use the pulley for the slow setting to power the mill.
The straw continues to go over the walkers and discharge beaters and through the spreader, while chaff is directed through the newly installed mill.
“If the combine is set right, all of the weed seed or volunteers should be either in the tank of the combine or mixed up in that chaff that then gets put through the mill,” Lade said.
He said the chaff gets directed through the chute into the multi-stage hammer mill, which has achieved a 96 percent weed seed kill rate on Australian fields.
“As long as you can get your weed seeds or your volunteers into that chaff screen, they basically have no chance coming through,” Lade said.
He said his first goal was to see if the Seed Terminator would work in Canadian conditions.
“In Australia, we get shut down because it’s too hot, with fire danger ratings and things like that. Here we get shut down because of snow when it’s too cold. The material is a lot tougher to put through, higher moisture content of grain. Plus the weeds can be green too,” Lade said.
“My first question to Nick was, ‘how long will it take to take it off.’ ”
It takes about half an hour to remove the chutes, pull the chopper back to its normal position and take the belt off.
However, the weed pulverizer worked well and Lade didn’t have to bypass it.
“We did about 214 hours this harvest and we didn’t touch it,” he said.
“We did a small amount of peas, barley, a lot of canola, and a lot of wheat this year. In all of those crops it worked really well.”
He said the only issue occurred when very green material went through the combine because it sometimes fell off the discharge beater at the back of the combine into the mill instead of going through the spreader.
“But even then, that wasn’t much of a problem. The mill has sensors all over it, so if some green material had fallen in, it will beep at you. Often it will clear, sometimes it won’t. Just wait for the machine to cool a little bit, take it out and keep driving,” Lade said.
He is considering adding another discharge beater to his combine to avoid this problem and he said this wouldn’t be an issue with some New Holland combines because they have a different system to feed the straw into the chopper.
Lade is using the latest model of the Seed Terminator, which has updates that have significantly improved the performance.
For instance, it has more sensors and a stronger gearbox that is less likely to overheat compared to earlier models.
Lade said his next step is to examine how effective the terminator is at destroying different types of weed seeds on Canadian fields.
“Now we want to get the thing tested with the species of weeds we have here. Let’s see what it’s doing on kochia, let’s see what it’s doing on wild oats, what it’s doing on cleavers, mustards, you can name them all. There is plenty of them around,” he said.
Lade is already working with Saskatchewan Agriculture on a research plot but he is hoping to expand the research.
“It would be good if it were industry-funded, where you know I’m a grain grower where I have 3,000 acres for myself on this farm. We have check-off dollars right, so it would be nice if some of these partners would come in and help with the initial cost of it. Just to set up some plots in the area. I have one already, but it’s not enough,” Lade said.
He said the Seed Terminator is going mainstream in Australia, with many of the initial bugs worked out and more than 50 units now installed in combines around the country.