How do you measure your harvest loss?

This was a question that BCG wanted growers across Australia to be thinking about this harvest. 

Through a GRDC Twitter and Facebook campaign developed by BCG as part of the GRDC Harvester Set-Up Project – growers nationally were encouraged to discuss/think about what method they were using to measure harvest loss but also make checking harvest losses at least twice daily and when conditions changed as clockwork as morning and afternoon tea.  

Why? It is estimated that harvest losses cost the grain industry an estimated $191 million nationally each year in canola alone. Measuring and reducing harvest losses is putting cash back in growers’ pockets.  

Reducing harvest losses can be tricky business with factors such as rain, wind, capacity, harvest weed seed control, cutting height, sowing system, fatigue and summer holidays all weighing in.  By starting a conversation on social media, BCG hoped growers could share their experiences, header set up etc, to help inform decisions moving through harvest.  

Drop Trays 

Grain losses from the rear of harvesters can be reduced by using home-made or commercial drop trays that help to accurately measure grain losses.  

Drop trays can be useful as they are designed to catch the lost grain rather than it falling on the ground and machine operators having to scratch in the dirt and stubble looking for it. They have been found to be particularly helpful in canola where grain is small and of high value.  

BCG visited a grower in the northern Wimmera to test out a Bushels Plus brand drop tray.  

What we did: 

  1. The battery-operated tray was attached (by magnets on the tray) to the back axle on the header.  
  2. When the header was in full operation the tray was dropped using a remote control and a sample of what was coming out the back of the header was caught in the drop tray.  
  3. The sample was then poured into a grain aspirator and then the weight of the seed measured.  
  4. This weight in grams, crop type, width of cut, pan size, crop value, yield (tons/hectare) was then put into the Bushels Plus app specifications which then calculates grain yield loss and the dollar value of the loss. Any drop tray with the same dimensions and the GRDC harvest loss calculator can be used to calculate losses. 
  5. A harvest loss of 1 percent or less of total yield for all crop types is a general guide for growers to be working from to know whether settings need to be adjusted on the harvester. Acceptable harvest losses for cereals however are closer to .5 per cent and canola 2 – 3 per cent with the aim still being to reach 1 per cent 
  6. After calculating losses in percent of total yield, change one setting at a time before measuring losses again.  

With funding from GRDC, BCG hope to run header-set-up clinics next year to help growers mitigate harvest losses and get the most out of their harvester.  

In 2021, BCG members are encouraged to reach out during harvest if they would like to test the drop-tray system to which BCG has access. Please call the BCG Office on 03 5492 2787 if you are interested.  

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