Portable manure sensor

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This prototype manure analyzer, a 15-inch cube, weighs about 20 pounds. USDA-ARS chemist James Reeves says he plans to make it smaller — about the size of a shoebox weighing 5 pounds or less.

Need to know the composition of your manure, but don’t want to wait for lab analysis? USDA-Agricultural Research Service chemist James Reeves has built a prototype for a manure analyzer that works off of a vehicle battery and can be set on a truck’s tailgate. This means that one day you’ll be able to analyze manure samples yourself in less than a minute.

The prototype shines invisible near-infrared light through filters onto about two tablespoons of manure placed in a small cup. The amount of light reflected back allows a filter spectrometer to measure both the nitrogen and water content.

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