VIDEO: Canadian cage mill teams up with JD

Customers can order the impact mill as an option on S-Series combines, and more brands will be added for 2021

A Canadian-built cage mill that attaches to combine choppers and destroys weed seeds during harvest is now on the market.

Saskatoon-based Redekop held the public launch of its Seed Control Unit in the John Deere booth at Agritechnica in Hannover, Germany, last November.

Redekop owner Trevor Thiessen said the company’s been developing its impact mill for five years, and it was fortunate to choose a John Deere combine to test its prototypes.

“They (John Deere) saw some of our patents go through the patent office. They called us up and wanted to talk,” Thiessen said.

He said John Deere representatives wanted to know if Redekop was actually developing a weed seed control unit or if it was just sitting on the patents.

“We told them we had already built a prototype and we’re happy to show it to them,” Thiessen said.

“They saw it and they got excited about working with someone who was established in the market already because we are already manufacturing large volumes of choppers for other OEM (original equipment manufacturer) companies.”

He said OEMs can be hesitant to work with start-up companies because they usually don’t have established process and quality control checks and balances.

After observing Redekop’s progress with the Seed Control Unit for one year, John Deere requested prototypes to put through its testing protocols.

A year later the two companies came to terms to enable John Deer’s customers easy access to the Seed Control Unit by simply checking an option box when ordering a new combine.

“The agreement with them is we’ll supply to the John Deere dealer group an option kit that can be ordered through the factory ordering system,” Thiessen said.

“It’s a dealer-installed, not a factory-installed, option. So it just ships with the combine.”

The Seed Control Unit is compatible with any S-Series John Deere combine, and in 2020 prototypes will be tested on New Holland, Case and Claas combines with the intention of offering this system for these OEMs in 2021.

The mills will be the same for the different combines, but how they are powered will be unique for each model.

On each side of the cage mill there are three stationary rings and two that are rotating, slamming the chaff into them.

Abrasive bars rotating against one an other at 2,850 r.p.m. shatter weed seeds. | Redekop photo

“(The stationary rings), based on our testing, we’re hoping to get 400 to 500 hours per side, and that’s a reversible mill, so that could give you 1,000 hours,” Thiessen said.

“That would be with a high-wear package.”

He said the other components in the Seed Control Unit should hold up similarly to the company’s chopper.

“You’re putting a lot of material through there, but the sidewalls, gearboxes and drive pieces should be a five-plus year timeline,” Thiessen said.

“We designed it with the same kind of integrity or robustness we do with everything we’ve built.”

He said the company’s target for an annual operations cost of the wear components is less than $10,000.

The Seed Control Unit retails for $100,000, including a Redekop chopper to which the mill attaches.

The current model also connects to John Deere S-Series straw chopper side rails, which enables operators to easily access the back of the combine and the chaffer.

The Seed Control Unit is belt driven, runs at 2,850 r.p.m. and has an oil cooler to prevent the gear box from getting too hot.

Thiessen said the Seed Control Unit will also weigh on the fuel bill, costing an extra $1 per acre to run in high-yield environments such as Canada, but it likely won’t affect harvest speeds.

“In Europe, when we get to the next level of crop, I think we will see a little bit of a slow down, just because you’re putting so much through and you just can’t go at the same pace,” Thiessen said.

“(However), in Germany we were running at almost 100 percent of engine capacity and the guy beside us (who didn’t have a Seed Control Unit installed) was running at about 85 to 90 percent in the same exact field. But we were basically doing the same tonnes per hour.”

The harvest weed seed tool requires upward of 70 horsepower, but exact power requirements will depend on crop conditions.

There are also other factors in terms of its power draw, including the chopper style.

To reduce the power requirements, Redekop suggests installing the Seed Control Unit on its chopper, which has a mechanical tailboard, instead of John Deer’s Advanced PowerCast system.

“We have nine units running in different configurations with PowerCast systems,” he said.

“It’s working OK, but in Europe we just have it with the vane tailboard because that extra horsepower just starts to sap the power out of the combine.”

The Seed Control Unit has a coupler on the main drive shaft that disengages, so there is no need to remove belts or the device if the operator wants it disconnected.

“It’s two quick door adjustments and pull the coupler and away we go,” Thiessen said.

Third party testing showed that Redekop’s impact mill kills more than 98 percent of the weed seeds that go through it, he added.

Breanne Tidemann, a research scientist at Agriculture Canada, has researched harvest weed seed control since 2014, including mechanical control with the Harrington Seed Destructor, which has a similar cage mill design as Redekop’s Seed Control Unit.

“The research that’s been done in Australia and in the U.S. all kind of says the same thing — it doesn’t seem to matter what species you put into any of the physical impact mills; if you can get them in there they are going to get killed,” Tidemann said.

If the weeds seeds are still on the plant at the time of harvest and go into the combine, she added, research has shown most of the seeds that don’t end up in the grain tank come out of the combine in the chaff.

So controlling weed seeds at harvest means having strategies to deal with the chaff, such as collecting it, placing it on tramlines or in lines to burn or by using an impact mill to kill the weed seeds.

Tidemann said prairie weeds that still have their seeds at harvest and can be targeted with these impact mills include volunteer canola, green foxtail, lamb’s quarters and potentially kochia.

Material enters the mill through heavy fan hammers and exits along with other residue.

Kochia retains seeds through harvest, but many of its seeds might be below the height of the cutting bar.

Fluffy weed seeds such as thistle or dandelion usually blow away and bypass the impact mills.

She said growers who use mechanical weed seed killers should not necessarily reduce their herbicide use. Instead, these systems should be part of an integrated weed management program.

Tidemann said farms running multiple combines may choose to install an impact mill on only one of them and then use it in the weedy patches and headlands.

“Resistance (to herbicides) is a reality,” Tidemann said.

“Resistance is continuing to increase, and if we continue to rely on herbicides, which we are, that’s not going to change. So what are you going to do when your herbicides stop working? If you don’t have an answer to that, it’s something you should start thinking about.”

Thiessen said if a heat map was created to illustrate where farmers spend a lot of money on products designed to manages weed seeds during harvest, Australia and South Africa would be red hot.

“Europe would be next to Australia — it’s starting to get hot — and then there are little pockets in the U.S. that would be close to Europe,” Thiessen said.

Some regions in the United States used glyphosate in a triple rotation of corn, cotton and soy, he added, where weeds such as Palmer amaranth have developed resistance to glyphosate.

Market acceptability will be related to weed pressure, he said.

“I think the U.S. is probably going to be an interesting market in four years. I think Canada will be in something like five to seven years, and Europe in one to two years.”

He said market acceptability in Europe will be related to the banning of crop protection products.

For instance, Germany plans to ban glyphosate in 2023, and other countries will likely follow suit.

“I don’t see anything on the horizon where we are going to ban any significant chemistry in North America at this point in time, but because we’re all on this herbicide tolerance crop path, I think we are building herbicide resistance at a pretty alarming rate,” he said.

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