New Harvester Helps Tame Native Grasses

There are quite a number of grass species throughout the world. Humans have selected a few of them (rice, wheat, etc) for agricultural production probably because of their ease of harvest, or other beneficial attributes. But, if we consider the world around us, it is often the case that adapting ourselves to the environment seems to be harder for us then adapting the environment to suit our needs. Part of creating a low impact future is reversing that trend by looking to see what is local, what is native, and what has managed to survive. One of the major stumbling blocks in taking advantage of native North American grasses has been the fact that we did not have the technology to harvest the seeds efficiently; until now. According to a recent news release, The Arbuckle Native Seedster, manufactured in Billings, Montana, will be available in 2007. Lee and Maggie Arbuckle have spent the past 5 years developing the harvester. Instead of cutting the grass with the seed head attached, as a combine might do, the Seedster 'plucks' the seed without cutting. There is estimated to be more than 100 economically significant native grasses that are difficult to harvest with conventional equipment. As Arbuckle says:

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

Their story is one of understanding of the land, people, and technology of their area. The development of this technology not only opens doors to entire new markets, but greatly advances the sustainability and diversity of the native grass market.

The article points out:

"Such seed produces grasses that are prized for their drought and wildfire resistance, ability to stabilize eroding soil, desirability as forage and reseeding capacity."

However, Lee Arbuckle isn’t stopping at developing the new harvester. He is working to classify native grass seeds by their harvest characteristics, a task which nobody has yet thought to tackle. Just another reason why the Arbuckle’s are way ahead of the game when it comes to thinking about how to live with the environment instead of against it. For more information on the Arbuckle Native Seedster, or the Arbuckle’s themselves, please follow the link. Photo Credit of Seedster to Randy Wimberg ::MSU NEWS

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