Project overview: Implementing new technologies for assessing oaten hay yield and quality

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There are current limitations for assessing biomass and quality traits in oaten hay breeding and agronomy research. Manual hay cuts need to be carried out at consistent growth stages requiring several visits to field sites. Samples are transported to the laboratory, oven dried and processed through two different mills. Ground samples are assessed using near infrared (NIR) technology for quality measurements.

There is a significant opportunity to utilise phenotyping technology to measure quality traits, such as neutral detergent fibre, acid detergent fibre, colour, water soluble carbohydrates (WSC) and crude protein (CP), using new sensing technology in the field. This will reduce labour inputs and cost while improving the throughput and accuracy of measurements. Significant investment in field phenotyping technology was recently made by the University of Adelaide, the Plant Accelerator and the company Crop Traits.

The FieldExplorer is a novel field phenotyping platform, combining LiDAR, hyperspectral imaging, and colour imaging technology. The hyperspectral imaging has the potential to measure hay quality in the field similar to lab based NIR techniques, while LiDAR sensors have the potential to provide rapid and accurate measures of biomass. Once ‘new’ quality calibrations are established for the FieldExplorer, manual sample cuts and subsequent laboratory analysis will not be required.

Benefits include accurate hay yield and quality assessment at more sites for breeding and agronomy research resulting in increased hay yield and quality for growers and processors. In addition, calibration models developed with the FieldExplorer can inform the design of low-cost multispectral sensors which could be used by growers and processors in the future to improve management decisions impacting both yield and quality.

Objectives: The objective of this research is to evaluate and demonstrate the impact of new field based crop sensing technology for measuring biomass and key quality traits relevant to the sustained growth of the export oaten hay industry. This project will develop proof-of-concept calibrations from analysis of FieldExplorer measurements (new field based crop sensing technology) and manually collected data.

The long-term goal is to support breeding, pre-breeding, and agronomy research, improving the accuracy and throughput of current quality trait assessment, increasing genetic gain.

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