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."
Lee Arbuckle at (406) 294-2995 or email@example.com
Lee Arbuckle | EurekAlert!
Advance warning system via cell phone app: Avoiding extreme weather damage in agriculture
12.07.2018 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Agrarlandschaftsforschung (ZALF) e.V.
Fishy chemicals in farmed salmon
11.07.2018 | University of Pittsburgh
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.
Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
13.07.2018 | Event News
13.07.2018 | Materials Sciences
13.07.2018 | Life Sciences