Podjetni kmet, 7. January 2024, Author: Maruša Kraševec, Photo: SIP Šempeter d.d.
At SIP, which has become a specialist in the agricultural machinery market for grassland harvesting, employees need to know not only the technical characteristics of the machines, but also the physiological and physical processes that take place in and affect the plants before and during harvesting. To this end, a SIP Lab team has been set up to provide training for employees and is also involved in testing the machines, monitoring the quality of the forage and the importance of the different harvesting technologies. It also answers questions from users, often related to the SIP mowers. To answer the question “Which conditioner should I choose?” the SIP Lab carried out a test comparing different types of finger-type conditioners.
Why a conditioner?
Mown plants do not dry evenly, as the leaves of plants dry much faster than the stems. The stems allow the plant to extract water from the roots to the leaves with minimum loss, and are therefore surrounded by a waxy cuticle that prevents water evaporation. It is at this point that the conditioner does its work. These are mechanisms built into the mowing units, the purpose of which is to damage the stems of the plants, opening the stems and allowing water to be lost more quickly, thus drying the stems. As the wilting or drying of the forage is faster, the harvesting of the forage is consequently faster. This helps to ensure that as much nutrients as possible are retained in the forage, explains Maruša Kraševec, a graduate agricultural engineer and head of the SIP Lab.
What types of conditioners do we have?
There are two types of conditioners in mowers, finger-type and roller-type. Finger conditioners are made up of plastic or metal fingers and their function is to break or tear the stems, opening the way for faster moisture loss. They also partially damage the leaves of the plants, which can be a problem when harvesting leguminous plants.
Roller conditioners, on the other hand, work by squeezing the stems between two rubber or metal rollers. The compression causes the stem to crack or split open, exposing it to the weather without damaging the leaves. This makes them more suitable for conditioning clover and alfalfa.
Which conditioner should I choose?
SIP says that when communicating with users and potential customers, they are often asked which conditioner they recommend. In Slovenia, this question mainly concerns finger conditioners, as roller conditioners are not very commonly used in Slovenia. In order to answer this question as accurately as possible, SIP Lab designed an experiment comparing two different types of finger conditioners and their impact on the rate of forage wilting and the crude protein content of forage. The test was carried out in July on the second cut of a grass-clover mixture. For the purpose of the test, a prototype of a double mower combination was used, where one mower unit was without a conditioner, the other mower unit had a conditioner with steel fingers and the front-mounted mower unit had a conditioner with plastic fingers. This gave them the opportunity to compare three different types of rows in one pass of the tractor under the same conditions. They also took samples of freshly defecated forage for comparison.
And what did the results of the SIP Lab test show?
The results of the analysis of forage samples cut without a conditioner, with a plastic finger conditioner and with a steel finger conditioner showed that two hours after cutting, the dry matter content of the grass-clover mixture was as follows: 18.7 per cent for freshly cut forage, 25.2 per cent for mowing without a conditioner, 26.9 per cent for mowing with a plastic finger conditioner and 28.9 per cent for mowing with a steel-finger conditioner.
Analysis of the crude protein content per kilogram of dry matter (DM) of forage showed that the crude protein content per kilogram of DM of forage was 16.3 per cent for mowing without a conditioner, 14.7 per cent for mowing with a metal conditioner and 15.6 per cent for mowing with a plastic finger conditioner. The crude protein content per kg of SS forage for the freshly cut mix was 16.7 %.
When conditoning with a metal finger conditioner, the loss of moisture from the plants is the fastest, but when conditoning clover there may be a greater loss of leaves and consequently protein.
The photo shows the damage to clover leaves caused by the plastic finger conditioner , which is minimal compared to steel fingers.
SIP Lab recommendations for users
The test results showed that there is always some loss of crude protein when using a conditioner. On the other hand, we speed up the wilting or drying of the plants, which reduces the time the plants are exposed to the metabolic processes that take place after mowing and to external influences, especially weather, which in themselves can lead to even greater losses of nutritional value in the forage. Conditioning with a steel-finger conditioner results in a faster loss of moisture from the plants, which means that harvesting of the forage can also be faster, but clover conditioning can result in greater losses of leaves and protein compared to plastic soils. Thus, for users and those still looking for information on which conditioner to choose, SIP recommends the use of steel-fingered conditioners in areas dominated by pure grass crops, and plastic-fingered conditioners for grass-clover mixtures and also for alfalfa mixtures.
Read more in the original article, which can be found HERE.