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Harvest losses in the 2022/23 season exceed acceptable thresholds

Findings from a 12-month harvest losses GRDC investment led by GGA have been compiled from a study conducted across 65 sites for eight crop varieties during harvest 2022/23.
Photo: GRDC

Research measuring the scale of grain and profit lost during the 2022/23 harvest found Western Australian growers left an estimated $320 million of grain in paddocks from front and other machine losses across cereal, canola and grain legume crops.

This second phase of the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) investment Measuring Harvester Losses in the Western Region project, co-ordinated and led by the Grower Group Alliance (GGA), aimed to work with growers to maximise harvester throughput capacity with acceptable losses.

Image of two researchers in a dry grain field.A project measuring harvest losses in WA has shown that growers who measure losses with drop trays and make necessary adjustments have lower levels of grain loss for high value crops. Photo: Ben White

Findings from the 12-month GRDC investment have been compiled from a study conducted across 65 sites for eight crop varieties during harvest 2022/23.

GRDC grower relations manager - west, Jo Wheeler, says the study showed that harvester losses across WA continue to be higher than acceptable thresholds, highlighting the need for growers to prioritise measuring grain loss during harvest and calibrating their headers for optimum results.

“Be aware of factors that influence grain loss, and continually monitor and calibrate your machinery to keep these losses at an acceptable level for your enterprise,” Ms Wheeler says.

“Changes during your harvesting program such as moving to a new paddock, changing to a new crop type, or if weather conditions such as moisture or humidity change, can all contribute differently to harvest losses, so be prepared to re-check your losses using drop trays, and adjust your machines as you go.”

GGA found the average losses in wheat and barley crops were 2 and 4.6 per cent respectively. In canola, losses were measured at an average of 3.2 per cent but were as high as 10 per cent at some sites.

Comparatively, industry wide loss benchmarks are less than one per cent for cereals and two - three per cent for canola pending the conditions.

Losses measured by GGA exceeded these guideline benchmarks for all winter crop grain types except for wheat in 2022.

Technical lead Ben White of Kondinin Group says losses and throughputs were recorded for harvesters as delivered and with modified concave and rotor setups. While this work needs further quantification, losses in modified machines were reduced significantly while maintaining or even increasing throughput.

“Front losses were again surprisingly high, exceeding measured machine losses in all crops except barley and oats,” he says.

“Of note, while offering significantly higher throughput in wheat and barley, stripper front losses were several times higher than other front styles.

“Both of these factors should be accounted for by growers considering an investment in a stripper front.

“Vario, Varicut and/or Varifeed fronts demonstrated improvement in throughput in canola crops and also delivered a significant reduction in front losses, making a strong business case for their use pending the area of canola grown.”

Once again, the need for growers to quantify losses was demonstrated with those using drop trays achieving lower losses at harvest than those that do not use trays.

“Using drop trays at harvest helps identify, capture and quantify losses so loss monitors can be calibrated accordingly,” he says.

These results, based on receival figures from Grain Industry Western Australia (GIWA) and harvest grain prices, support data generated from the 2021/22 harvest.

A secondary objective of the project was to facilitate grower adoption of practices necessary to mitigate harvest losses.

Primary Sales Australia’s Peter Broley delivered drop tray measurement training to grower group staff including LIEBE Group, Corrigin Farm Improvement Group and Stirlings to Coast Farmers, demonstrating the measurement and calibration process of the drop trays.

Ben White then worked with the grower groups to consistently capture the data under a carefully defined testing protocol and data entry template for analysis.

GGA project manager Daniel Kidd says this educational piece was crucial to encouraging grower adoption.

“The value of GGA’s involvement for this project is through building capacity in our grower group staff by linking them with experienced operators like Ben and Peter,” he says.

“Developing these skill sets within the grower group network and providing the drop trays for ongoing use allows them to continue this work with their grower members once the project finishes.

“As the report showed, the proportion of growers using drop trays are still the minority in Western Australia with less than four in 10 growers utilising them.

“But the figures also showed that growers who measured losses with drop trays and made the necessary adjustments, had lower levels of grain loss for high value crops,” he says.

The results will provide useful data for the GRDC harvest setup workshops which will commence in September in the following locations:

Visit the GRDC events page for up-to-date information on the harvester set up workshops.

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