Jake Freestone with CropScan tech

New scanner could offer barley growers better returns on their crops

Scotland may soon host trials of high-tech crop scanning equipment which allows barley growers to maximise the proportion of their crop suitable for the premium malting market.

The high-tech grain quality monitor, called CropSan 3000h, is a portable scanner that is clamped on to the clean grain elevator of a combine harvester to take samples of grain every eight seconds during harvest. The scanner can measure precisely the protein, moisture and oil content of the crop being harvested.

CropScan trials have already shown extremely promising results at Agri-EPI Centre satellite farms in Suffolk and Gloucester during the 2018 harvest. There, the scanner was used to measure the protein content of milling wheat crops. Knowing the protein content of their crop at the point of harvest can allow growers to segregate or blend batches of grain to the desired protein levels. The farmers, John Pawsey (Shimpling Park Farm) and Jake Freestone (Overbury Farms), have been so impressed that they intend to continue to use CropScan during this year’s harvest.

Gavin Dick, Agri-EPI Centre Farms and Commercial Manager ,said the next step is to maximise CropScan’s potential, with a key target being the Scottish malting barley market. To be suitable for the malting market, and therefore attract a premium price, barley nitrogen content must be 1.65% or lower:

“The technology offers live information in the field about a grain crop compared to the traditional method of postharvest testing in a lab, allowing the grower to make field level management decisions.  As we already know there is a correlation between protein and nitrogen, our role now is to see where this technology can go, beginning with testing CropScan on malting barley crops to determine if the concept can be transferred to measuring grain nitrogen levels.”

Agri-EPI has begun actively seeking partners with whom to plan Scottish trials. Gavin said:

“The early reaction to the potential of this technology from those involved in the Scottish malting barley industry has so far been enthusiastic and we’re looking to firm up partnerships in the near future to get a trial off the ground. I believe this technology offers great potential as it may allow barley growers to segregate high and low nitrogen barley, as well as to blend grains with differing nitrogen levels, to bring a batch to the correct level for the malting market. This just isn’t possible with the traditional means of testing grain from the store once is has been harvested.”