Global Agriculture

Australia: New research to reveal true cost of harvest losses to growers

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03 December 2021, Australia: Research is under way in Western Australia to measure the magnitude of grain and profit lost during harvest.

A Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) investment, led by Grower Group Alliance (GGA), will quantify the losses in each of the major grain crops in the western region.

GRDC Grower Relations Manager – West, Rachel Asquith, said results from the research would help to inform growers’ harvest grain loss reduction practices in future years.

“This investment will create a benchmark for grain losses at harvest, rather than growers relying on anecdotal evidence which in many cases probably underestimates the amount of grain left on the ground and the associated lost income,” Ms Asquith said.

“We want growers to be able to strike the optimum balance between acceptable grain loss and harvest efficiency.

“The data collected through this investment will determine the different thresholds for each grain crop so growers can aim for that sweet spot of reduced grain losses without a detrimental impact on harvest speed and logistics.

“The methodology being employed in this project will capture every variable that can impact on harvest losses from the front and back of the harvester.”

Ms Asquith said the work would build on insights from a previous investment led by Planfarm consultant Peter Newman which specifically measured losses in canola crops.

“Until now, there has been no quantification of losses in other crops so this new investment will establish indicative baseline harvest loss parameters for wheat, barley, lupins, canola, oats, lentils, field peas, faba beans and chickpeas.

“With some crops currently commanding high prices, even a one per cent loss of grain at harvest could amount to a large overall financial loss.”

The project will involve sampling and measurement of harvest losses at 75 sites across all WA port zones.

GGA program manager Mark Holland is coordinating the 12-month project.

Agricultural engineer Ben White is the technical lead for the project, supported by expert input from Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development machinery research specialist Glen Riethmuller. Peter Broley from Primary Sales has assisted with developing the project’s protocols and has provided the equipment for data capture.

Magnetic drop pans are being utilised by trained sampling teams – Chris O’Callaghan from the Liebe Group, Alec Wiles from the Facey Group, and Stirlings to Coast Farmers’ Daniel Fay – who will safely measure losses in a consistent manner across WA, using the BushelPlus app to record data.

Mr Holland said the project had attracted a positive response from growers and the broader industry.

“Growers are keen to see this work being undertaken so they have a better understanding of the true extent of what they are losing during harvest,” Mr Holland said.

“The information generated out of this project will be fed back to the GRDC for assessment of the need for further investment in this area and in the development of related future projects.”

Recommendations drawn from the work will also be presented and discussed at future GRDC harvester workshops in the western region.

Mr Holland said program outcomes are likely to have some relevance and application to other cropping regions across Australia.

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