The growing potential of NIR for on-farm forage analysis

Introduction by staff

This technical article looks at the growing importance and potential of on-farm NIR analysis of forage, with a focus on calibration transfer.


The article looks at how the implementation of on-farm NIRS analysis for quality control of unground samples can help to make optimal use of forage resources for ruminant nutrition.

Getting the nutrition right helps to reduce the cost of production while increasing the accuracy of rations and minimizing negative environmental impacts. Beyond basic nutritional concerns, NIRS technology functions as a tool to increase traceability, quality control and safety in the agro-livestock sector, thereby supporting the decision making process.

'The greatest and simplest role of rapid NIR analysis on the farm may be the determination of the daily changes in fresh and preserved forages for ration adjustments, because their variation in moisture content can dramatically affect nutrient contribution of each ingredient in the final mixing ration,' says de la Roza-Delgado.

As many NIR calibrations are built up over many years of hard work, a key concern is the possibility of transferring large databases to new devices, thus avoiding the need to develop new applications. 'It would be very inefficient to start again from scratch,' she says.

Nevertheless there is a need for more co-operation with the research community to promote added value as well as quality control systems offering fast and accurate results.

In terms of in-situ quality control on-farms, the integration of portable NIR sensors with communication technologies is important, as is software designed for spectral data treatment. The design of a Graphical User Interface (GUI) as a decision-making support platform, currently being developed by the NIRS research group, University of Cordoba, under supervision of Prof. Ana Garrido-Varo, is an example of such a solution.

'To establish an in-situ, non-destructive quality control and integral NIRS support service; the NIR instrument manufacturers should consider redesigning and adapting devices with different optimizations for animal nutrition applications, especially in terms of wavelength range, spectral resolution and sampling area size,' concludes de la Roza-Delgado 'These aspects have relevant influence on the predictive ability of NIRS spectrophotometers for heterogeneous and high particle size sample.'

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