Building new technologies for sustainable and profitable sub clover seed harvesting

University of Western Australia

  • Project code: PRO-015149

  • Project stage: Current

  • Project start date: Friday, June 24, 2022

  • Project completion date: Friday, May 30, 2025

  • National Priority: PSE-Production and processing efficiency and profitability


This 3-year project, commencing in July 2022, will build on outcomes from the current project “Profitable and environmentally sustainable sub clover and medic seed harvesting” (PRJ-011096) to develop a prototype machine that overcomes the inefficiencies and environmental damage of current subterranean (sub) clover seed harvesting methods.

Since sub clover buries its seed, three research and development processes are recognised: 1) picking up burrs; 2) extracting seeds from the burrs; and 3) preventing soil erosion. This project will have an engineering focus and comprise a research team with skills in agricultural engineering and pasture agronomy. We will partner with an agricultural engineering firm and work with key seed growers in SA, NSW, Victoria and WA to further develop innovative solutions for more efficient and environmentally sustainable sub clover seed harvesting. A steering committee will guide the R&D program.

Although processes 1 to 3 are required to offer a complete solution, the major bottleneck is Item (1). Three parallel approaches will be taken: i) build on current activities adapting peanut type harvesting technology for use with sub clover; ii) evaluate harvesting technologies from other industries for use with sub clover; and iii) examine existing innovative on-farm harvesting methods. Key issues to be examined include: harvesting efficiency; effects on soil structure and erodibility; effects on seed yield and quality; and economic benefits and machinery cost and trade-offs. To complement this activity, it is recommended that industry education packages are developed around Items (1) and (3) in parallel to this project.

Key project outputs will be machinery with greater harvesting speed and efficiency, reduced soil erosion and recommendations for more efficient and sustainable seed harvesting.


Pasture Seeds

Research Organisation

University of Western Australia

Objective Summary

This project will focus on developing prototype machinery to overcome the poor harvesting efficiency and environmental damage problems of current Horwood Bagshaw (HB) sub clover seed preparation and harvesting methods. 

In consultation with the Steering Committee, we aim to develop a practical solution to this challenging problem and secure a commercial outcome that can quickly go to market and be adopted. Adapting harvesting technologies from existing industries has been prioritised in project PRJ-011096, rather than developing a new machine from scratch, and this approach will be continued in the proposed project. This has the advantage of utilising existing machinery supply and support infrastructure. 

The research team will work with a range of leading seed growers and pasture seed companies in SA, NSW, Victoria and WA to ensure a practical outcome that can be adopted on different soil types across the main seed growing regions.