Eco Innovator November 2011


Mallee Harvester Stays in Eastern States

Myrtle rust in the eastern states has delayed indefinitely the return of the Mallee Harvester to Western Australia, and final trials of the harvester will now be done there rather than in WA.

Research on the harvester is continuing and Biosystems Engineering, the machine's developer, is on track to prove its effectiveness and reliability.

"The original plan was to run the final trials of the harvester in WA, said Peter Zurzolo, deputy chief executive of Future Farm Industries CRC, which helped develop the harvester.

However, the Mallee Harvester had been used in trials on the eastern seaboard near areas affected by myrtle rust. "Based on expert advice we could not guarantee that the harvester is not contaminated with myrtle rust spores," he said.

Myrtle rust is a fungal pathogen that affects plants in the Myrtaceae family, including eucalypts, myrtles and bottlebrushes. The rust is native to South America and is also found in parts of the US and Central America. In Australia, it was first detected in April 2011 on the central coast of NSW and has spread to numerous near-coastal areas of NSW and Qld.

The Mallee Harvester.

"There is no evidence that myrtle rust is in WA and bringing myrtaceous plants into WA from other states has been prohibited. If it gets in here, it could be devastating. This pathogen affects and may kill some Australian plants, including eucalypts. It has the potential to affect the natural environment and some industries," said Mr Zurzolo.

Meanwhile, WA mallee growers are said to be keen to see the new prototype harvester in action. The device is aimed at giving the mallee industry and the biofuel industry an efficient and economic harvester to secure their supply chain.

The harvester can cut and chip woody biomass in one continuous operation. It is also known as the Bionic Beaver, and Biosystems Engineering say it a world-first in engineering and innovation.

The main funds for the project, $1.5 million, came from the WA Government's Low Emissions Energy Development (LEED) program.

Based in Qld, Biosystems Engineering creates technology to solve problems in agriculture, food, forestry, natural resources and the environment.






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