Seed coat machine boon for pastures

Bells Pasture Seed manager Rob Bells with his newly purchased Romany seed coating machine imported from Queensland.WesternAustralia’s seed industry has stepped things up a notch with the installation of a new seed coating machine at Bells Pasture Seeds at Boyanup.
Nanjing Night Net

Terry and Rob Bell hope to complete the installation of their Romany seed coating machine – the only one of it’s kind in WA –by the end of next week.

The machine was purchased second-hand from Queensland, and will be used to treat seed produced on the Bells’ 1000 hectare property.

Manager Rob Bell said the technology had the ability to coat every seed individually with several layers of treatment.

“It’s a very specific way of coating the seed. It’s got a big drum on it and the seed spins with centripetal force one way while another part spins the other way which creates an atomising effect, so what it does is coat every seed individually as it’s going,” he said.

“Other machines don’t get the exact precise coverage that this will offer, so every seed will get what it needs.

“With the old technology you only get one treatment, that’s it.

“This is designed so you can do everything all at once and we can put four, five or six treatments on it.

“This machine will do any seed, from Carom seeds through to wheat so it’s very diverse in what it can do.”

Bells Pasture Seeds is a fourth generation family-owned and run business that specialises in the production of ryegrass, with a client base from Esperance to Northampton.

The business produces more than 16 varieties of perennial, annual and short-term ryegrass seeds along with several types of clovers, cereals, legumes and blends.

Rob said the new machine would help deal with exceptionally high demand for pasture seeds in WA in 2017.

“We’ve had unprecedented demand for pasture varieties this year, we’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.

“Obviously the guys have a bit more money in beef and wool is doing well too, so the whole livestock sector is thriving.

“I think the grass seed market in WA is very much understated, it’s quite a big market and nothing grows more tonnes of feed than ryegrass in a high production system.”

The Bells planted 400 hectares of ryegrass in 2016, and after a wet season hoped to finish harvest this week.

“Blending and packaging will then begin at the seed facility before clients collect their seed for 2017,” Rob said.

“We find that a good 60 or 70 per cent of what we sell goes out as a blend.

“There’s hundreds of varieties of ryegrass and they all do very different things so they’ve all got their own attributes.

“No farmer is the same, and no farm is the same so we’ve got to account for what they want.”

The new seed coating machine attracted the attention of Agriculture and Food Minister Mark Lewis who paid the seed facility a visit in mid-January.

“I think agriculture is really good at under-selling itself and it was good for a change for someone to take notice of what we were doing,” Rob said.

The Bells plan to trial coating seed with several layers this year to produce a specialised product for their clients.

“We’ll be looking a lot more closely at zinc on seed and we’re also looking at one layer of treatment being a soil wetter to help with absorption to get a more even germination across the paddock,” Rob said.

“We’ll be treating ryegrass with Gaucho and Poncho Plus and a lot of our cereals will also be treated with insecticides.

“Black beetle wipes out so many hectares of pasture seed every year in the South West and we get guys that come back two or three times to re-plant the same paddock and that’s not great.

“When you can offer something that can help to stop that, that’s fantastic.”

This year will see the introduction of new ryegrass variety Riley to the mix at Bells Pasture Seeds.

Storage shed expansion is also planned in the near future.

Rob said he hoped the addition of the new seed coater to the facility would help the business continue to grow in future years.

“Really what this machine can do is just endless so I think it’s going to be the start of our next step so we’re really excited about this,” he said.

“We’re a little family company competing with some really big global companies so for us to be efficient we need the best machinery, and that’s how we compete.”

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