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Adaptability of Chopper Harvester in Harvesting Sugarcane, Energy Cane, and Banagrass

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

Citation:  Transactions of the ASABE. 61(1): 27-35. (doi: 10.13031/trans.12038) @2018
Authors:   Shaochun Ma, Manoj Karkee, Patrick A. Scharf, Qin Zhang
Keywords:   Adaptability, Biomass recovery rate, Chopper harvester, Energy crop, Off-track error, Stubble leaning angle.

Abstract. Energy crops are important sources of feedstock for biofuel production. Feedstock cost, which accounts for more than 50% of biofuel operating cost, plays a significant role in the commercialization of biofuels. Energy crop harvesting cost is the biggest single contributor of the total feedstock production cost. Thus, investigation of harvesters to improve productivity and efficiency, and hence reduce costs, is important for biofuel production. The performance of an existing sugarcane harvester was evaluated in terms of biomass recovery rate and field efficiency to assess its adaptability for energy crop harvesting. The harvester performance was evaluated in Hawaii fields with three different energy crops: energy cane, banagrass, and sugarcane. The biomass recovery rates achieved by the harvester were 83.0%, 86.6%, and 52.3%, respectively, for energy cane, banagrass, and sugarcane, whereas the field efficiencies were 86.2%, 80.6%, and 59.6%, respectively. In another similar experiment with banagrass, the harvesting rate and field efficiency were 89.8% and 88.7%, respectively. The recovery rates in harvesting energy cane and banagrass achieved in this work were higher than the recovery rate of ~73% found in the literature. Similarly, the nominal field efficiency found in the literature for a harvester is ~70%. The sugarcane harvester used in this work achieved higher field efficiency with energy cane and banagrass harvesting compared to the nominal field efficiency (70%). Additionally, the limitations of existing machines in harvesting energy crops were analyzed to identify the main factors limiting biomass recovery rate and field efficiency. It was found that stubble leaning angle and machine off-track errors have the greatest effect on the harvester‘s ability to recover biomass, whereas plugging issues may have a substantial effect on the field efficiency.

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