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The more information you can gather about a hybrid, the more confident you can be that it will perform as expected. Pioneer is using NIRS technology to evaluate potential corn silage hybrids for traits growers value. NIRS stands for Near Infrared Spectroscopy. It’s a technology that allows more-rapid measurement of forage quality.

“Pioneer has been using NIRS technology on choppers at research stations, both overseas and in North America,” says Kevin Putnam, Pioneer dairy specialist in New York. “This is a valuable technology for researchers.”

With NIRS equipment mounted on choppers, researchers can harvest test plots and evaluate them right in the field. This saves time over the standard method of sending samples to a lab for evaluation.

Immediate gratification

“We get much faster turnaround on silage hybrid evaluation,” Putnam says. “By evaluating them with NIRS in the field, we no longer have to bag up samples and send them to the lab. During harvest, labs get busy, and it takes time for them to get through all the samples they receive.”

Because evaluations occur on the fly as hybrids are chopped, the mobile NIRS allows Pioneer to evaluate more potential hybrids than before. This helps Pioneer get more information about hybrids to sales professionals and, thus, to customers.

“Any time you get more data, you develop better confidence in what that data is telling you,” Putnam explains. “NIRS helps us advance the best hybrids quicker. Sales professionals and growers can sit down together, go over this information and make decisions about the hybrid that’ll work best in a given field.”

Putnam notes economic conditions are requiring dairy producers to be more precise on feed inputs. A few commercial harvesters now have NIRS on board for rapid moisture measurement.

“With low milk prices, we have to become more efficient,” he insists. “Dairy operations that are using NIRS on commercial choppers are seeing a huge benefit.”

Moisture affects forage quality immensely. If forage is too dry, it’s difficult to pack properly. If it’s too wet, harmful acids can develop that can deteriorate nutrients and feed quality.

“NIRS technology can help with harvest timing,” Putnam notes. “With corn silage, we’re seeing how much starch we can achieve by harvesting closer to 35 percent dry matter as opposed to 30 percent. If a field is not quite dried down to that level, NIRS will show us and allow us to switch to a field that’s ready for harvest. It can be a key component in harvest planning.”

Yield monitors and inoculant precision

Pioneer is working with forage harvester manufacturers to deliver the precise amount of inoculant on forages during harvest.

Pioneer offers SLV (super low volume) inoculant applicators. Pioneer and some chopper companies are combining this technology with yield monitor data to deliver variable rates of inoculant to forages.

“This saves money and gets the right amount of inoculant on the forage,” says Kevin Putnam, Pioneer dairy specialist. “It’s effective where alfalfa tonnage is variable. For instance, in areas where yields are lower, the technology applies less inoculant. Where yields are higher, it applies more to ensure the forages aren’t under inoculated.”

Putnam says growers interested in this technology should consult their forage harvester manufacturer and Pioneer sales professional. For example, it’s important to calibrate the monitor and applicator for haylage versus corn silage.