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 aims 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 will be 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 will be 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.

This work will benefit from other projects completed by the partners, such as the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded Supergen Bio-energy Consortium (RRes and CRL), and REGIX and MECABIOFOR funded by the French National Agency for Research (FCBA).

Deliverables

  1. Establishment of a full set of experimental protocols agreed by all partners involved
  2. Internal report prepared and passed to WPs 1 and 4 detailing all data acquired during first winter of harvest system evaluations
  3. Samples selected from most relevant harvesting systems and supplied to WP3
  4. Developed harvesting machines tested at the plot scale and ready for WP5 Demonstration
  5. First refereed papers (x2) on assessment of current harvesting technologies / systems and their potential for improvement submitted for review
  6. Internal report prepared and passed to WPs 1 and 4 detailing all data acquired during two years of winter and summer harvesting evaluations
  7. A decision tool for harvesting systems design (machinery and management) as part of an improved logistics chain for biomass energy crops