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Measure N, P, K in manure on the goMeasure N, P, K in manure on the go

John Deere HarvestLab 3000 Manure Constituent Sensing builds on technology that measures feedstuff nutrient value and moisture content on the go.

Tom J Bechman 1

July 1, 2019

3 Min Read
tractor applying manure in field
MEASURE AS YOU APPLY: There’s no more guessing on nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus content of manure if you’re using the new HarvestLab 3000 sensor system from John Deere, available in the U.S. for the first time.

Eighteen months ago, the big news was that precision technology was revolutionizing tillage tools. Now manure management enters the 21st century with a boost from precision technology. You no longer must guess at how many nutrients you’re applying, or base application rates on samples analyzed in a lab weeks ago. You’ll be able to make changes on the go based on real-time measurements.

This is possible thanks to HarvestLab 3000’s Manure Constituent Sensing option introduced by John Deere. John Mishler, precision ag tactical manager for John Deere, says the new system can analyze liquid manure in the field 4,000 times per second.

Although the technology is available in Europe from Deere and others, this is the first time it will be available in the U.S. You can place orders beginning in early August.

How it works

The concept is based on measuring refraction of light using near-infrared technology, Mishler says. Sensors emit light in the NIR spectrum, and the technology compares the results to data, primarily graphs and curves, based on thousands of samples tested using traditional, wet chemistry in labs. By matching curves produced from NIR light samples on the go to existing curves, the computer can report nutrient levels in the tank immediately.       

Manure application is actually the third use for this technology in John Deere products. HarvestLab 3000 technology was commercialized more than two years ago for use in silage chopping and silage feeding. It was an upgrade of a system already used for several years.

“Farmers use it on self-propelled forage harvesters to measure moisture content and dry matter on the go,” Mishler says. Based on results, the machine automatically changes length of cut or makes other adjustments, he adds. The same sensor system can also be used when silage is fed to determine nutrient and moisture content. As results change, the feedlot manager may adjust rations.

Now there’s a third use for the technology: manure management.

Manure management

With the HarvestLab 3000 system with Manure Constituent Sensing, you can set a goal of how much nitrogen you want to apply per acre, and meet that goal, Mishler says. It’s possible because you’re seeing real-time data on the screen in the cab based on sensor readings in the tank.

Mishler says readings are accurate and have been compared to actual wet lab samples. In fact, DLG, an analytics and testing company in Europe, has certified accuracy of the sensors.


MONITOR NUTRIENTS: Now you can know how many nutrients you’re applying as you drive through the field. You can also have as-applied records of applications.   

“There may be a situation where your priority is not overapplying phosphorus instead of hitting a nitrogen goal,” he says. “You can achieve that goal as well.

With John Deere tractor technology, you can set the tractor to speed up or slow down automatically as nutrient content changes during application to meet your goals. This technology can also be used with equipment of other colors, Mishler notes. In that case, you would adjust speed manually.

You also have as-applied nutrient maps to keep for future use, he concludes.

About the Author(s)

Tom J Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

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