PROTEIN blending in the paddock is now a commercial reality with on-the-go harvester sensing technologies, yet uptake is slow says a developer.
Philip Clancy CEO of Next Instruments said while prototype real-time protein sensors were introduced to Australian paddocks over fifteen years ago adoption of commercial monitors had been limited.
“The marketplace has been very slow to take it up,” he said.
The Next Instrument grain protein sensor was developed in 2003 with the current CropScan 300H On Combine Analyser released commercially in 2013.
Mr Clancy estimated their were 200 of the current sensors fitted for this years harvest.
With protein measurement you can make decisions on the fly which will generate profit
The CropScan 300H is a near infrared analyser and measures protein, oil and moisture in grains and oil seeds as they are harvested.
Mr Clancy explained the sensor worked by trapping grain in a remote sampling head as it travels up the clean grain elevator.
“Light passes through the sample of grains and is collected by a fibre optic cable on the opposite side,” he said.
“The light is transmitted back to the NIR spectrometer located inside the harvester’s cabin.”
Mr Clancy said a touch screen PC located in the cabin then computes the protein, oil and moisture of the grains and presents the data in the form of real-time paddock maps, trend plots and bin by bin tabulation.
The CropScan 300H can be fitted to all major brands of modern combine harvesters as long as they were in good working order, he said.
Mr Clancy said he was not sure why there was a low uptake, but it may be due to a lack of confidence following early models not working very well, their own included.
He said with the newer model they are confident accuracy is comparable with industry standards and have at least one Australian case study which compared accuracy.
“If you ask the majority of users they will say it comes back within 0.2-0.3 percent from the silo,” he said.
Mr Clancy said the company also had case studies from growers across Australia showing the profit benefits of the technology and spoke about them at a recent GRDC update in Pallamallawa NSW.
“One was able to monitor protein levels as the bin filled and switch to a lower or higher protein section of the field until the bin average reached 13.5 per cent.”
“He reported that every load was accepted as APH1 grade which at the time attracted a $30 per tonne premium.
“This practice generated an estimated additional $40,000 in grain payments across the farm,” he said.
Compared to the uptake of yield monitors, Mr Clancy said the information provided in real-time from a protein monitor had more utility.
“Yield mapping has been around for more than twenty years, yet hardly has had a significant impact.
This practice generated an estimated additional $40,000 in grain payments across the farm
“You can get the information but you can’t do anything with it at the time of harvest,” he said.
Mr Clancy said a major use of real time protein mapping is as a tactic to maximise protein grade payments and is already generating significant profit gains for many grain growers.
“With protein measurement you can make decisions on the fly which will generate profit.”
Mr Clancy said protein measurement can be used both tactically and strategically to make profit.
“The tactical is purely, how do I make money in the field? You blend it bin by bin, you can mix in the field or you can take it off farm and load into silos so you are segregating with the information coming off the header.”
“The strategic is all about the agronomy side, it’s not about making money this crop, its about the use of future nitrogen,” he said.
Mr Clancy said he was unaware of any currently offered commercial competitors and Next Instruments as a self funded Australian company was currently looking for investors so they could expand.