Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Automated Harvester Reduces Labor for Sampling Pastures.

J. Benton Naylor1, Robert L. Kallenbach1, Donald W. Harby2, and Danny J. England1. (1) University of Missouri, 4968 Rangeline Road, Columbia, MO 65201-8973, (2) Central Missouri State University, G009A - School of Technology, Warrensburg, MO 64093

Sampling pasture for dry matter availability is time-consuming and sometimes inaccurate. To ensure accuracy, proper sampling protocol requires harvesting multiple areas within a pasture. Unfortunately, there are no commercially available mechanical harvesters that can rapidly harvest multiple areas within a pasture. With this in mind, we developed a three-point, tractor mounted, flail type pasture harvester that can be used to for rapid harvesting of multiple strips in a given pasture. The harvester cuts forage and throws it into a hopper attached to series of four load cells. After weighing, the hopper dumps the forage on to the ground, where it can be sub-sampled for moisture content. The harvester also measures the distance of each strip cut. A controller (Compact Field Point 2100 programmable automation controller, National Instruments) controls weighing, digital input/outputs, and hardware counting devices. A tablet computer running a LabView 8.0 virtual instrument, developed by our lab, allows the harvester to be controlled from the tractor seat. All data recorded in the field can be downloaded into a spreadsheet. Compared with traditional sampling using hand quadrats or strips cut with other machines, we have improved the accuracy of sampling by approximately 70% and reduced labor needed for sampling by 50%.