Forage Science

Innovation that measures up

11 June 2019
Innovation that measures up

An AgResearch built and designed machine, which is being heralded as game-changing technology, is revolutionising the way ryegrass and other forage yield is measured.

Positive feedback from seed companies and plant breeders prompted Dr Kioumars Ghamkhar to enter it in the prestigious prototype category in the Innovation Awards at Fieldays, Mystery Creek.

AgResearch LiDAR MSICS yield measurement machine - aerial from AgResearch on Vimeo.

The Multiple Scanning Imaging Capacity System (MSICS or M6) is the second generation of an earlier yield measurement machine.

Kioumars, Director of the Margot Forde Germplasm Centre (MFGC) and the Workstream Leader for Phenomics in the Pastoral Genomics project, said M6 replaces work traditionally done by nine field workers who had to cut grass by hand to measure yield accurately or to visually assess it, which is not as accurate.

Built in AgResearch’s engineering workshop in Lincoln in close consultation with other collaborators and contractors, the M6 doesn’t require any actual crop cutting unlike its predecessor, the M5.

“It’s completely non-invasive. Instead we use LIDAR—Light Detection and Ranging— sensors that can scan 20 metres of forage in under 40 seconds and produce measurements that are far more consistent and accurate, and best of all, are ready in real-time. Ryegrass yield is notoriously difficult to measure using different sensors due to its narrow leaves.

AgResearch LiDAR MSICS yield measurement machine from AgResearch on Vimeo.

Kioumars added: “the M6 enables us to measure ryegrass and other forages over the entire growing season. Only a few years ago, once you harvested the plant it was gone and there was always plenty of scope for human error. This machine eliminates that and exponentially enhances our scientific understanding of forage yield.”

Kioumars said an algorithm was developed for grass plot segmentation, ground surface detection and plant biomass and the measurements have been validated against harvest data (fresh and dry weight yields).

The information is processed by an onboard laptop and viewed on a screen by the operator and can be seen and, if required, manually adjusted in real time.

“We’ve had some wonderful feedback from several seed companies and breeders, IT specialists and managers about its speed, precision and accuracy, one breeder suggesting he will never go back to visual measurements again.”

“We’re now delighted to showcase our M6 to visitors to Fieldays.”

The machine will be on display at site INN044.