For the latest harvest season, Canadian agricultural manufacturer Redekop delivered three of its seed control units (SCU) to farms in Warwickshire, Worcestershire, and Suffolk; to begin the SCU’s first UK trials, exploring the effectiveness of harvest weed seed control when fitted to combines.
The idea behind the SCU, as Will Smith of NIAB explained, is that the unit ‘beats about the weed seeds, hitting the seed four times, therefore making it unviable’; in Canadian trials, the SCU has proven itself capable of destroying more than 95% of seeds that pass through it.
In the UK trials, the focus was on the control of meadow brome, Italian ryegrass and black grass weeds, the prevalence of which varied from farm to farm.
In Warwickshire, the SCU was fitted to Ted Holmes’ New Holland CR9-90 combine, a combination which saw great successes, with Mr Holmes reporting a 60% reduction in Italian ryegrass seedlings in his winter barley crop.
He did add that there was a lesser reduction of Italian ryegrass seedlings in his spring barley crop, however, he attributed this to the fact that the area had been subsoiled prior to assessment – ‘which may have introduced seeds from deeper within the soil profile’.
All in all, Mr Holmes said: “The SCU was easy and simple to use, there were a few teething issues, especially with dry barley straw in the real heat,” however, “Redekop were on hand and my first indications this summer have been really positive.”
On trial in Worcestershire, the SCU was fitted to Jake Freestone’s John Deere S685I combine, following a ‘relatively easy installation process’. “The John Deere integration worked fine and machine maintenance was easy,” Mr Freestone continued.
An issue that Mr Freestone did run into with the SCU fitted was that the combine’s wheels had to be pushed out, to fit the SCU’s steering axle. “This made the combine’s rear axle much wider than we thought.”
“The drive of the Redekop unit is on the left hand side of the combine, so we had to push the axles out so that the wheels could still turn, so that we could loop back on ourselves while combining.”
Mr Freestone also added that the SCU’s operation was noisy, though he said you didn’t notice this while in the cab, “and we had no issues or complaints from neighbours!”
In Suffolk, the SCU was attached to a Claas Lexion 8800, operated by Adam Driver. This pairing made the Lexion the first Claas combine in Europe to be fitted with an SCU, although the unit could not be disengaged from the combine.
Mr Driver uses a traffic farming, no tillage, very low disturbance system. On the farm, he said using the SCU has been useful for the control of volunteer crops, ‘this was an unforeseen thing that I hadn’t really thought about originally’.
He added that for black grass and brome control, he thinks it’ll take three to four years to control, as the farm has a heavy seed bank. However, he wants to continue to use the SCU, especially as a pre-emptive strategy for the control of rye grass weeds. “I’m predicting that we will eventually end up with a rye grass problem, so it would be great to use the SCU to get on top of that.”
The SCU’s practical implications
In terms of the practical implications of bolting on an SCU, Mr Smith said that, in NIAB’s own Cambridgeshire field trials, the combine recorded a mean fuel increase of 10%, and a 5% increase in engine load. This 10% fuel increase remained true in the Warwickshire and Worcestershire trials too.
“When the SCU was disengaged, the fuel usage dropped by 10-12%,” noted Mr Holmes, of the Warwickshire farm. “We also noticed a spike [in fuel usage] in the evening when the heat of the day dropped, and the combine got a bit thirstier.”
Mr Freestone said that he also noticed a 10% fuel increase when the SCU was engaged.
Of the trial results, Mr Smith said: “It is no surprise that we are still seeing high numbers of seeds; it is messy when you are starting with any weed control system on a very heavily weeded area.”
But Trevor Thiessen, president and co-owner of Redekop Manufacturing clarified that the SCU is not a solution to, or replacement for, all agronomic practices: “We see the SCU as an integrated pest management control, it is one more tool.”
“If other good seed control factors are not optimised, effects will not be seen. That is why we really need an integrated approach,” added Mr Smith.
“The SCU will support herbicides and herbicides will support the SCU in terms of the overall efficiency,” he concluded.