John Deere’s HarvestLab sensor for self-propelled forage harvesters will, from next season, be able to analyse a range of crop constituents including sugars, starch, protein and crude fibre content, quickly and accurately while on the move.
Farmers and contractors looking to generate extra income can therefore benefit from this new advance in precision farming technology. The ability to now measure sugar levels in real time also provides the opportunity to manage the silage additive process more efficiently, using a range of commercially available automatic variable rate application systems.
This latest version of HarvestLab is the first commercial system of its kind on the market, and is based on near infrared (NIR) sensor technology manufactured by Zeiss Jena. Using the additional crop data, the HarvestLab sensor can help livestock farmers to optimise their herd’s performance from silage, more accurately balanced against the correct amounts of extra bought-in feeds when required.
Similarly, operators of bioenergy plants can more easily calculate the optimum amounts of biomass material to use for efficient energy production. John Deere’s 7050 Series i-specification self-propelled forage harvesters are ideally suited to harvesting maize and other energy crops for biomass, and can chop consistently to the necessary length for bioenergy plants, down to 4mm.
The forager’s integrated ‘intelligent’ technology package includes the HarvestLab sensor and AutoLOC. Using the machine’s infinitely variable transmission, this already provides automatic adjustment of the length of cut depending on the dry matter content of the crop being harvested. This is based on settings programmed in by the operator on the machine’s in-cab GreenStar 2630 touch screen display prior to work, according to end user requirements.
As the forage dry matter rate within a field varies due to differences in soil, seed varieties and other external factors such as trees on the headlands, AutoLOC automatically adjusts the chop length in 1mm increments based on the preset values, to produce the optimum feed quality from the harvested crop. HarvestDoc also records all the necessary crop and harvest data for the contractor’s invoicing process.
Mounted on the forager spout, the HarvestLab system has been independently verified by DLG to consistently deliver +/-2 points of accuracy.