Phase one underway to design a more efficient and sustainable approach for harvesting subterranean clover and annual medic


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Pasture Seeds project researchers: Dr Phil Nichols, Dr Kevin Foster, Dr Andrew Guzzomi and pHD candidate Wesley Moss

A new AgriFutures Australia funded project, led by Dr Phil Nichols and Dr William Erskine from the University of Western Australia, aims to develop a more efficient and sustainable harvesting approach for Australian subterranean clover and annual medic growers.

It takes patience and persistence to grow and harvest subterrean clover and annual medic. The painstakingly-slow process relies on an Australian machine, invented in the 1960s, that travels at just a few kilometres per hour. To rise to the harvesting challenge, Dr Phil Nichols has brought together a diverse research team with expertise in agricultural engineering, pasture agronomy and breeding.

Only three months into the project, Dr Phil Nichols, Dr William Erskine, Dr Kevin Foster, Dr Andrew Guzzomi and PhD student Wesley Moss have engaged growers and agronomists in Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales in a series of on-farm consultations, workshops and surveys. Through this process, the team aims to capture the collective knowledge of the unique industry and the associated challenges with harvesting, before embarking on the design phase of the three-year project.

Armed with this knowledge, the team will consider potential:

  • Engineering modifications for current harvesting machinery
  • Design recommendations for a new prototype harvesting machine
  • Agronomic and soil management packages to reduce soil erosion prior to, during and following seed harvesting.

AgriFutures Australia Manager, Research, Annelies McGaw is optimistic about the outcomes of this project and the longer-term opportunities this project will create for subterranean clover and annual medic growers.

“This project addresses each of The AgriFutures™ Pasture Seeds Program RD&E Plan’s four objectives: production and processing efficiency and profitability, sustainable certified temperate pasture seed production, connectivity and communication, and building industry capability and capacity.

“Ultimately, the end goal is a triple bottom line solution to support growers and to help sustain the Australian industry,” said Ms McGaw.

PhD student Wesley Moss selected this project because of the cross sector collaboration and the uniqueness of the Australian pasture seed industry.

“On the engineering side there is a great deal of opportunity to be innovative and explore different ideas that could have real practical benefits. This flows into agriculture where we are able to collaborate with farmers and industry in order to develop tangible solutions with positive outcomes. My ultimate motivation is to make my small contribution to helping improve agricultural practices and advancements toward a more sustainable future.

“The coolest thing about the pasture seeds industry is its unique Australian history. This is essentially the only country in the world with a commercial production of these seeds and the technology which supports the industry was developed right here in Australia. I feel very privileged to be working in this industry and to be involved in the next chapter of its rich history,” said Mr Moss.

As part of the project, Mr Moss will be conducting an online survey to gather the experiences of subterranean clover and annual medic seed harvesters. If you would like to receive the survey and have your say, please send an email at

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