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E-Harvest Moisture Analyser For Optimum Silage

Press release
6-Sep-04

EDAC develops e-Harvest moisture analyser for optimum silage

EDAC Electronics and Crop & Food Research have developed a new agritech product that takes the guesswork out of measuring moisture content levels of whole-crop cereals for silage production. It is also useful for measuring dry matter content of pasture.

The product called e-Harvest helps crop growers and diary farmers determine the best time to harvest, and provides an accurate measure of dry matter content for a range of standing feed crops, including pasture.

Dr John de Ruiter, Crop Physiologist at Crop & Food Research says: "Farmers often rely on a visual observation or feel for the moisture level of their crop, or a basic calculation of the weight difference of a forage sample before and after drying by microwave. Neither method is accurate or reliable."

Knowing the moisture content of whole-crop cereals is important when making silage. It can help reduce the number of poorly made silages and prevent the loss of quality. It is used as feed by diary farmers to provide necessary supplementary nutrition and energy for milk production.

Dr de Ruiter estimates that as many as half of all silage stacks are not made at the optimum moisture content. Loss in value of feed may be as much as 20% if harvested too wet or too dry. He says, "If farmers harvest when the moisture content of their crop is too wet it will detrimentally affect the fermentation by reducing the population of desirable lactic acid producing bacteria in the silage. If the silage is too dry it is difficult to compact and exclude the air, which are vital to the silage process. The device can also be used to adjust pasture feed allowances calculated on dry matter basis."

Crop & Food Research first explored the idea of the moisture analyser two years ago and, after trialling two prototypes, turned to agritech product specialist EDAC Electronics to perfect the design and manufacture the final product.

The objective was to design an affordable, quick and easy to use instrument that farmers and contractors could rely on to monitor and determine the best time to harvest their whole-crop cereals for silage. The result is the e-Harvest moisture content analyser, which is scheduled for commercial release later this year.

Project manger and director, Henry Bettle, explained that the machine measures the dry matter content of a forage sample by accurately comparing weight before and after drying. Each measurement process takes less than an hour to complete.

"e-Harvest is ideal for silage contractors and brokers, crop growers and dairy farmers who want to schedule harvesting for best yield and feed quality," says Mr Bettle. "With the ability to accurately and conveniently measure crops themselves, e-Harvest gives farmers peace of mind. We anticipate there will be strong interest in the product from the agricultural sector both locally and internationally."

EDAC specialises in working with partners to turn innovative ideas into marketable agritech products, and continues to work with Crop & Food Research to introduce new agritech products for agriculture. Other products that EDAC has developed include the EDAC Frost Monitor, alarms diallers, and a bioorganic delivery system that sprays bees as they leave the hive with pollen and other beneficial products to enhance orchard yields.

About EDAC Electronics

EDAC Electronics is a privately owned New Zealand company that specialises in turning innovative ideas into marketable agritech products that increase efficiencies in agriculture and horticulture management. All design and manufacturing is conducted at the company's Christchurch head office. The company also has a sales office in Melbourne, Australia.

EDAC is achieving a growing reputation for excellence: the company received triple award recognition at the 2003 Westpac New Zealand Hi-Tech Awards, achieving Highly Commended for the Most Innovative Product and Biotech Company of the Year award categories.

Technical information about e-Harvest

e-Harvest determines the dry matter (DM%) content of herbage within 45 minutes and is a fully integrated drying and weighing system for repeatable DM% measurements.

e-Harvest is suitable for chopped samples of pasture, legumes and whole crop cereals, and can be used to:

- check of crop DM% on-site before contractors are committed to silage making

- monitor the progress of DM% change during crop development

- calculate DM feed allowances from wet weight loads in silage wagons.

Each crop has a specific drying pattern. Completion of the process is defined by programmed endpoints that give standard results irrespective of forage type. The drying cycle stops when DM% is stable and result is displayed. Microprocessor control of sample drying with predefined criteria for end point enables DM% measurements to be made with reduced operator error.

Measurement of field DM% of whole crop cereals close to harvest will confirm that the time is right to go ahead with harvest. DM% determined with e-Harvest is used as a check against standard curves for specific crop cultivars. Whole crop cereals for silage must be harvested at the correct dry matter (37-42%) to ensure good compaction, stable fermentation and less spoilage.

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