Video: How near-infra red technology measures grass quality

Near infra-red spectroscopy (NIRS) technology is helping grassland farmers produce better quality silage by pinpointing when grass is at the optimum nutritional value for harvesting.

At Grassland & Muck 2017, Limagrain demonstrated how NIRS captures in just eight seconds the key nutritional components in fresh grass, including protein, energy, dry matter and digestibility.

The technology encourages grassland farmers to place emphasis on silage quality rather than quantity.

See also: 7 tips to increase grass yield and quality

Limagrain is also using this approach to inform its grass seed breeding programmes, with grass seed mixtures specifically developed for their combined yield and feed values.

In the video below, Limagrain seed specialist John Spence demonstrates how the process works.

The company tested fresh samples at Grassland & Muck revealing a wide range of results. Metabolisable energy (ME) scores ranged by as much as 1.2 MJ/kg, with digvidestible fibre (DF), sugar and protein levels all differing by more than 6%. 

“This highlighted the range of feed quality possible, even in samples taken from farmers’ ‘best’ fields and cut at the right time,” says Limagrain’s John Spence.

Feed value

The results also demonstrated the importance of looking at more than one constituent of the feed value.

Samples with high sugar content had the lowest protein levels and vice versa –  high protein grasses had low sugar levels.

“The sample analysed with the highest sugar content actually had the lowest ME of all, showing us that just looking at one constituent isn’t a good way to judge feed quality.”

The analysis highlighted the importance of considering all aspects of grassland production – soil, cultivation and seed mixture.

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