Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Inventor Helps Grasslands Go Native

Date:
November 1, 2006
Source:
Montana State University
Summary:
A breakthrough in native grass seed harvesting may dramatically change the native grass seed market and help restore wildlands.

Lee and Maggie Arbuckle and their Arbuckle Native Seedster during field tests at Bruce Seed Farms near Townsend.
Credit: Photo by Randy Wimberg

Montana rancher and inventor Lee Arbuckle may soon change the nation's market for native grass seed, a tricky-to-harvest crop worth hundreds of millions and vital to restoring wildlands.

With the help of the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center at Montana State University, Arbuckle and his wife Maggie have spent the last five years researching and developing a native grass seed harvester. The Arbuckle Native Seedster will be manufactured in Billings, with the first one on the market in 2007.

"We're going to change the economics of the native grass seed industry," Arbuckle said. "The Seedster isn't a combine or a stripper, but a new-fangled plucker. This harvester isn't a better mousetrap; it's the first one."

Native grass seed is a growing market. Federal, state and local governments purchase large amounts of native seed, as do ranchers and landscapers. Such seed produces grasses that are prized for their drought and wildfire resistance, ability to stabilize eroding soil, desirability as forage and reseeding capacity. Much of the seed market is for the restoration of lands disturbed by mining, road construction and fires.

The Plant Materials Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that in 2001 more than 19 million pounds of PMP released varieties of native seed species sold for $94 million, representing only a fraction of the market.

Some native grass seed species can be harvested easily; others cannot and command prices in excess of $20 per pound. Arbuckle's invention can handle many species, but excels with difficult-to-harvest seed.

Modern combines harvest wheat by cutting the wheat stem with the grain head attached and then separating the two. That process isn't effective with many species of native grass.

"If you tried to harvest some native grass seed with a combine, it would plug in 30 seconds," Arbuckle said.

Nationally, more than 100 economically significant native grasses are difficult to harvest with conventional equipment. Lacking good commercial technology, producers have often "cobbled together" machines or even hand harvested, Arbuckle said.

Rather than cutting the grass with the seed head attached like a combine, Arbuckle's Native Seedster skips the separation process and just "plucks" the seed, Arbuckle said.

The plucking is accomplished with a simple spinning brush and combing drum. After harvest, the Seedster leaves the rest of the plant intact as forage and ground cover.

Arbuckle and his wife Maggie designed the Seedster to be easy to operate and quickly adaptable. In field tests, it has recovered a high percentage of seed and done well at controlling contamination from other seed.

The idea for a harvester came to Arbuckle five years ago when he got a particularly good crop of native grass seed on his third-generation family ranch near Alzada. The seed was valuable, but he didn't have an efficient way to harvest it.

At that point in their lives, the Arbuckles were in semi-retirement after having worked in Honduras with the United States Agency for International Development. Lee Arbuckle has a degree in agricultural economics and an MBA. He has spent years working in agricultural and rural development overseas.

The couple never planned to spend five years building a harvester, but like a barbed needle-and-thread grass seed, once the idea got in their heads they couldn't pull it out.

They've had help from the USDA in the form of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants, as well as the SBIR support program in Montana. They assembled a team to fast track their research and development, getting key help from design engineer Wade Wolf and grass scientist Brian Sindelar.

With a grant from the Montana Board of Research and Commercialization, Arbuckle is also classifying native grass seeds by their harvest characteristics - something that has never been done. With oversight from Sindelar, a native grass seed expert, 153 species of Montana native grasses have been classified.

The Montana Manufacturing Extension Center provided critical advice on design and manufacturing through Dale Detrick, based in Billings.

"Dale and MMEC have been a spectacular resource for us. MMEC support made the Seedster design simpler and easier to manufacture," Arbuckle said. "The Seedster is a simple, inexpensive, durable, very-adjustable machine and the parts are replaceable."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Montana State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Montana State University. "Inventor Helps Grasslands Go Native." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 November 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061030143425.htm>.
Montana State University. (2006, November 1). Inventor Helps Grasslands Go Native. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061030143425.htm
Montana State University. "Inventor Helps Grasslands Go Native." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061030143425.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins