So, how does BCG harvest work?

Harvest: the culmination of all the decisions, actions and luck of the past year!

As of Wednesday 4 December, BCG was 80 per cent of the way through our 2019 managed plots and 62 per cent of the way through our 2019 harvest.

BCG manages a program of approximately 9,500 plots covering about 130 different trials over 23 trial sites located through the Wimmera and Mallee. In addition to this program, BCG does contract harvesting in Yarrawonga, Geelong and Tasmania.

So how do all these plots get harvested?

The process starts with our two specialist plot harvesters. Each has a front of about 1.8m, the perfect width for harvesting our plots. They are driven to each site by truck and offloaded to get to work.

We don’t work from north to south for our harvest. We move between sites based on which crops are ready first and which crops will be more susceptible to damage if they aren’t harvested on time.

This year we were harvesting plots at Kalkee and Walpeup on the same day, while some plots at Birchip weren’t ready.

These machines, while much smaller than a broadacre header, essentially work in the same way but cover ground much more slowly. It takes approximately 10 hours for a plot harvester to harvest 1 hectare, depending on the crop type and the plot size. 1 hectare is about 330 plots, each 14m long and 2.15m wide. After each plot is harvested, the harvester must stop for 30 seconds to one minute to weigh and empty the grain from that plot. A sample of the grain from each plot is collected in a barcode labelled bag as the harvester empties and is then taken to the BCG laboratory for detailed testing.

Each sample undergoes largely the same tests as are done at a grain receival stand. Each sample may have a test weight taken, 1000 grain weight measured, be inspected for defects such as cracking or insect damage and is put through a NIR machine (which measures moisture and protein content on all samples, plus oil content in canola samples).

Which specific tests are done depends on the crop type and the reporting requirements for each trial. Also, depending on the reporting requirements, some plots have biomass cuts taken which are hand threshed to produce a harvest index (the ratio of harvested grain compared to total dry matter produced by a plant).

All of this information is then collated, analysed and used to write reports for collaborators and the annual BCG Season Research Results compendium , a members-only publication available at the 2020 Trials Review Day, 14 February 2020.

For more information on harvest at BCG, Claire Browne explained it all in a recent interview with Wimmera ABC’s Talking Farming.

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