Dakota State University -- NDSU Agriculture
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Sensor Can Provide Accuracy and Portability to Sugarbeet Producers
Sugar content in sugarbeets can now be determined in seconds and in the field, according to a NDSU Extension agricultural engineer.
NDSU agricultural engineers Vern Hofman and Suranjan Panigrahi have developed a tool for sugarbeet producers that will be able to quickly analyze sugar content with great reliability. The machine combines near-infrared technology (NIR) and statistical software to provide a faster, portable method of sugar content analysis that should be of great help to sugarbeet producers and processing plants.
"Ideally, what we foresee is a tool portable enough and reliable enough to allow producers to determine the pounds of sugar from a particular section of their field," says Hofman. "With the use of a yield map and instant sugar-content analysis, producers will be able to address issues in particular areas of their fields such as fertility and soil sampling."
Reliability of the sugar content readings is important. The sensor uses a fiber optic spectral meter and a halogen light for sensing. Unlike processing plant procedures which can take an hour and involve processing a sugarbeet into a pulp and then getting a sugar content from analyzing the whole beet, the sensor uses a thin cross-section of the beet taken from the top of the beet.
"The results we are getting are averaging 95.4 percent accuracy when compared to samples taken at the plant," says Hofman. "The differences are accounted for primarily by the way the readings are taken. Our readings are from a small, localized part of the beet as opposed to the whole beet, but we can account for the differences with statistical models. These are incorporated into the software."
The sugar-content sensor is ready for some applications, but in need of modifications for others. "In a processing plant, the sensor could be hooded or otherwise isolated from ambient light so that the spectral meter can take a good reading," says Hofman. "The unit needs some adaptations to become the portable unit that could be taken out to the field. We donít have the funding to do that yet, but we hope the potential of the sensor will inspire someone to help out in that area."
"We see tremendous potential for this sensor as a complement to precision farming," says Hofman. "With GPS and yield maps, the sensor could tell a producer exactly what is going on in his fields, and allow him to address whatever issues are lowering yields in a more organized, cost-effective way."