Taking Quality Samples Requires Quality Equipment

- Tamra Boucher

For anyone working in research, sample quality and integrity is crucial. It can mean the difference between success and failure in the seed business.

When we talk about sample quality in plot harvesting, there are a few key factors:

Integrity of the sample — grain should not been damaged or broken during the harvesting process, and forage materials should be cleanly cut.

Cleanliness — there should not be a great deal of chaff, pods, or straw with the sample.

Volume — this one is often misunderstood. I don’t necessarily mean the amount of the sample that is collected during a sample-taking process, but rather the volume of the plot that is actually captured by the combine or harvesting equipment during the harvesting process.

If any of these three factors are not up to par, disaster can result. If the threshing function of a combine isn’t working properly, the integrity of the grain can be compromised. Grain can become scratched or broken. In the instance of grass and forage harvesting, a clean and complete cut is important. If a harvested sample is not clean, it can impact other data. For instance, moisture readings would be inaccurate if the sample contained a lot of “trash”. If the harvesting equipment is leaving or losing harvested material, then yield data is not accurate.

I have spoken with many researchers who are still harvesting by hand, primarily because they either don’t have the budget for proper equipment or they simply haven’t yet found equipment that works efficiently for them.

For instance, people who work with very small seed often think they can’t use a combine. We have been able to show them that a good machine with the right features and settings can cut harvesting time to a mere fraction of what they are accustomed to. Processes that they have previously counted in days can be counted in hours with proper equipment.

Data drives research, so good data is a key component to success. Another key issue is cost. Time is money, so time spent on cleaning samples or sifting through them to remove damaged grain is money lost. Besides, who really wants to spend their time doing tedious tasks like this?

Quality research equipment leads to quality samples, and having quality equipment — equipment which meets the objectives above, doesn’t break down, and, by the way, includes a few creature comforts like efficient air conditioning and a quiet environment — leads to happy researchers! From an employer perspective, you can’t put a price on that.