Harvestlab monitors beginning to end

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Reading the state of forage as it left the chopper opened up producers’ abilities to manage their feed input. Using it after silaging gave real-time cattle management. Now it’s managing what comes out of the livestock.

The new model, Harvestlab 3000, has a broader use of the light spectrum than its predecessors, letting it see more with its near infrared system. It has always been able to help farmers read the moisture, length of cut, crude protein, starch, crude fibre, NDF, ADF, sugar and crude ash on the go and think about the pack in terms of projected feed intake and digestibility, and for managing inoculants.

It also serves double duty for the producer who owns one, providing a tabletop NIR feed reader that can be used when preparing the ration. In the European Union, biogas producers, often farmers themselves, also use the tool to measure the value of purchased silage as it comes into the facility.

Harvest data can also contribute to growing the next crop and exploring the economics of the current one.

“Farmers are able to start planning their rations for next year and share that data with their feed advisers electronically, but it also paints a picture of their agronomy in that crop and lets them plan for improved results in the next crop,” said John Mishler of John Deere in the United States.

Developed at Deere’s technology innovation centre in Kaiserslautern, Germany, the latest version of the system is both tougher and more sensitive than previous models.

“You know it is going to have to be durable to be mounted onto a forage harvester’s spout and run in all conditions,” said Mishler.

However, in Europe the unit’s abilities to read nutrient constituents on the go have a new role — measuring the content of manure.

All field applications in Europe are heavily monitored and regulated, and those regulations will become more onerous for producers in the near future.

“I will need to be able to provide an exact analysis of my manure applications, otherwise I would be limited to levels that will hurt my yields,” said Erik Jennewein, a farmer from Münchweiler an der Alsenz, Germany.

“We have to show we are putting on only what is allowed and putting it where it is needed,” he said.

“Precision technology is the only way to do that. Now we have to sample each load … and within manure it is hard to ensure that inside each load the materials are (homogenous).”

Klaus Braunhardt heads up the Deere Intelligent Solutions Group in Kaiserslautern.

“Fertilizing, you need to demonstrate (nitrogen) balance, (phosphorus) balance and it is a nightmare for our customers. Compliance is the basis for our subsidies in the European Union. You are not going to be able to apply for subsidies if you cannot document it,” said Braunhardt.

“But it’s also good agronomy, and for precision farming, and the future of most large scale farming, these things should probably be known pretty well.”

Mounted inline in the out-flow from a manure slurry tank, the Harvestlab takes NIR analysis to a new place.

With on-the-go sensing for nitrogen, ammonium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur and machinery management, the system can control tractor speed, allowing for a target rate application based on pre-set goals or limits and be applied to a prescription map.

The data can be wirelessly fed to and from the John Deere Operations Center, allowing farmers in Europe to move the data to their government forms or for custom applicators to invoice based on manure content and real-time application.

Jennewein, who also does custom spraying, which also requires extensive documentation, said being able to move application data to and from equipment in real time and then place it into forms has become a large issue for European operators.

“Unfortunately for farmers in North America, I can see this practice spreading, a little like manure,” said the German farmer.

The manure use of the Harvestlab hasn’t been rolled out for North America yet.

“(However), I can see a farmer at Wynyard, (Sask.) deciding he wants one and speaking to his dealer about it and the dealer pushing that,” Braunhardt said.

“It isn’t all about compliance. It is also about information.”

Braunhardt said he could also see other NIR on-the-go sensor-based tools for combines being explored, allowing producers to look at protein or oil content for segregation in markets of the “not-to-distant future.”

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