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Sensing Miscanthus Stem Bending Force for Maximizing Throughput Rate in a Disk Mower-Conditioner

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Transactions of the ASABE. 57(1): 5-12. (doi: 10.13031/trans.57.10121) @2014
Authors:   Sunil K. Mathanker, Alan C. Hansen, Tony E. Grift, K. C. Ting
Keywords:   Bioenergy, Biomass, Cost, Harvesting, Miscanthus, Mowing, Throughput rate, Yield map, Yield sensor.

One of the reasons for relatively high biomass harvesting cost is challenges in adjusting the ground speed of harvesting machines with respect to the yield level within a field. A real-time biomass yield sensor that can predict the yield in front of a machine could be a useful tool to control ground speed. It was hypothesized that the force required to bend Miscanthus stems is a reliable predictor of biomass yield. Based on this novel concept, a stem bending force-sensing system was developed and field tested with a disk mower-conditioner. A bale-specific method, segmenting the field area from which a bale was formed, was developed to correlate sensed bending force and Miscanthus yield. The measured bending force showed a logarithmic relationship (R2 = 0.80) with Miscanthus yield. The average error in predicting bale-specific yield was 10.3% for training data and 12.9% for validation data. The average error in predicting plot yield was 3.4% for training plots and 10.0% for validation plots. Using the developed logarithmic correlation model, yield maps were also generated. For the specific case analyzed, a proper control strategy to maximize throughput rate (mass per unit time) would be to either operate the mower-conditioner at the maximum feasible ground speed (9 km h-1) or at the maximum achievable throughput rate (60 Mg h-1). The yield-sensor controlled machine would result in 44.2% higher field capacity, 41.3% higher throughput rate, and 31.2% lower mowing-conditioning cost for the specific case analyzed compared to the operator-controlled machine. Studies are needed to extend the stem bending force-sensing concept to other thick-stemmed crop harvesting machines, such as sugarcane harvesters and coppice harvesters.

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