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
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
The main funds for the project,
$1.5 million, came from the WA Government's Low Emissions Energy Development
Based in Qld, Biosystems Engineering
creates technology to solve problems in agriculture, food, forestry, natural
resources and the environment.