Agricultural machinery

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Machinery exists for the harvesting and immediate post-harvest conditioning of energy crops. By comparing the performance of each harvesting system under experimental conditions, the project aimed to: generate data on aspects that are currently poorly quantified, highlight the positive aspects of each system and identify potential routes to improvement and supply the results for Supply Chain Integration and Optimisation.

All operations were closely monitored to generate data on financial and environmental costs; this will include time taken to harvest an area, used fuel, other GHG emissions, etc.

The objectives of the work on agricultural machinery aim to:

  • review the performance of currently available, large and smaller scale, harvesting technologies and subsequent harvested crop management,
  • make engineering developments to those technologies and systems (where practically feasible and financially affordable) and test them in the field,
  • determine how the timing of the harvest operation affects crop quality, costs and re-growth potential,
  • identify the extent to which year round supply with minimal storage may be possible via extended harvest windows for each crop,
  • produce recommendations, underpinned by a robust data set, of improved harvesting systems (machinery and management) as part of an improved logistics chain for biomass energy crops.

The harvesting system was divided into the following component parts before re-assembling the optimal components into improved systems:

  • Cutting mechanism, losses, re-growth potential,
  • Gathering mechanism, potential for soil contamination,
  • Drying, efficiency and losses,
  • Milling, grinding, densification and energy requirements
  • Timing, re-growth potential, soil damage, crop quality and sustainability.

Deliverables

  1. Establishment of a full set of experimental protocols agreed by all partners involved
  2. Evaluation of winter harvest systems for short rotation coppice.
  3. Developed harvesting machines tested at the plot scale and ready for commercial demonstration
  4. Assessment of current harvesting technologies / systems and their potential for improvement
  5. Internal report detailing all data acquired during two years of winter and summer harvesting evaluations
  6. A factsheet providing guidance on the choice of harvest options for short rotation coppice and the consequences for post-harvest management