Demonstrating the use of a combine-mounted NIRS to acquire in-field estimates of soybean quality composition
Sustainable Production
DiseaseField management Pest
Parent Project:
This is the first year of this project.
Lead Principal Investigator:
Mark Querna, Southern Minnesota FIRST
Co-Principal Investigators:
Project Code:
Contributing Organization (Checkoff):
Institution Funded:
Brief Project Summary:
The Farmers’ Independent Research of Seed Technologies (FIRST) trials program is organized to deliver yield performance information for farmers. In this project, researchers will collect data with an on-combine Near Infra-Red Spectrophotometer (NIRS) while harvesting FIRST trial plots. The NIRS machine can analyze soybean crude protein and oil content, moisture, and other components immediately, allowing farmers to interpret quality as the crop is harvested. Soybean samples will also be collected and sent to the University of Minnesota for crude protein and oil analysis. Data collected with the combine-mounted NIRS will be compared with lab-analyzed soybeans for on-combine instrument accuracy.
Key Beneficiaries:
#agronomists, #farmers, #marketers
Unique Keywords:
#agronomy, #oil, #protein, #soybean quality, #technology
Information And Results
Project Summary

Soybean quality composition is an important factor in several soybean marketing opportunities. For example, contracts for identity preserved soybeans require the harvested crop to attain compositional standards. If those standards are not met, the grower faces stiff penalties, including crop rejection. Typically, the contract crop is harvested and stored in a separate identity preserved bin. Then, the beans are sampled and sent for laboratory analysis. At the lab, bench-top near infrared spectrophotometry (NIRS) analysis is the current industry standard to determine whole-bean and milled oil and protein content. Lab results are not available to farmers for six weeks to several months after harvest. This lack of timely crop quality information reduces the incentive for farmers and buyers alike to expand acres of high quality soybeans for sale to identity-preserved soybean buyers, processors, and end-users.
PerkinElmer now offers an industrial grade NIRS machine (DA 7350) that mounts onto a combine. Their NIRS instruments have been used for many years in industrial food processing plants for in-stream composition measurements. The combine-mounted PerkinElmer NIRS instrument can conduct analysis of soybean crude protein and oil content, moisture, and other components “on the fly,” allowing farmers to interpret quality as the crop is being harvested. Detecting composition during harvest would greatly improve producers’ information about harvested material. The information could support decisions about segregating loads, enhance transparency of loads to processors, and reduce crop rejection. All of these would support farmers selling their crop at high prices or premiums.
The Farmers’ Independent Research of Seed Technologies (FIRST) trials program is organized to deliver yield performance information for Minnesota and midwestern farmers. FIRST also has funding from the United Soybean Board (USB) to report soybean composition for varieties in the trials.
We propose to collect data with a PerkinElmer on-combine instrument while harvesting FIRST trial plots. We will mount a PerkinElmer NIRS on a Case-IH 1640 plot combine operated by Southern MN FIRST. The combine is already equipped with a weight and moisture scale, and harvests several thousand individual soybean plots annually from multiple locations. As part of USB-funded research, a soybean sample is collected from each variety at harvest and sent to collaborator Seth Naeve’s lab at University of Minnesota, where they are analyzed for crude protein and oil using a bench-top PerkinElmer NIRS unit.
We will report on the comparison of composition data collected a) with the combine-mounted NIRS from soybeans as they are harvested and b) from those same soybeans collected and sent for analysis in the lab at UMN. The genetic variability in the FIRST trials will provide an excellent demonstration to educate producers’ on the potential for new marketing strategies and decisions supported by the in-field quality data availability.
The project is anticipated to last three (3) years, however the funding requested is for June 2023 through April 2024.

Project Objectives

1. To demonstrate the use and utilization of a combine-mounted NIRS technology to Minnesota soybean farmers.
2. To compare the precision and accuracy of results from a combine-mounted NIRS with a lab based NIRS

Project Deliverables

The combined dataset of in-field and laboratory NIRS composition should demonstrate the effectiveness of the technology to farmers and agricultural professionals by an unbiased organization. FIRST professionals will also report on experiences with installation, calibration, data-collection, and analysis results. As part of educational materials, any positive or negative experiences with the equipment will be included in reports.
The FIRST program has a large audience of farmers and agricultural industry professionals. These are data-driven people, who are interested in the unbiased, public reports that FIRST has produced for over 25 years. FIRST professionals will present the results of the project at the MN Ag Expo as a booth or poster presentation. The FIRST organization will include information about the project in its media channels, such as newsletters, social media, news media, and website presentations. FIRST will publish a “special bulletin” or report post on its website that will remain available indefinitely at the conclusion of the project.

Progress Of Work

The Perkin-Elmer 7350 was shipped to me in August 2023. Installation wll be completed when my combine comes back from major repairs at the local combine dealership.

The Perkin-Elmer 7350 was shipped to me in a very secure box, and it arrived by UPS. I had to wait to install the unit, as my combine had a lengthy repair done by a professional Case-IH mechanic. I was able to complete successful installation of the Perkin-Elmer 7350 on October 5 and 6, 2023. I found a great local welder who was able to weld the connecting collar to my plot weight scale in a perfect weld. We designed a support collar and arm to support the unit in a very safe manner while it was used for harvest this month. Brian Schultetus of Perkin-Elmer was very helpful to detail how we needed to wire the scale system so that it performed safely and correctly. My employee, John Querna, and I were able to complete the installation in time to harvest the first of 12 FIRST soybean plot locations. The process of collecting data was fairly easy to get accustomed to. The moisture sensor on the 7350 proved to be more accurate than the moisture sensor that I was using, so I used the moisture data reported by the 7350 in my harvest files for each plot. Downloading the quality trait data from the 7350 to my Microsoft Surface tablet was also quite easy, once Brian explained the process to me. I confess that I would like to find a way to view the data from the Perkin-Elmer 7350 on the same screen as my Google Sheets Harvest Files. I will pursue this as a major course of action before the 2024 harvest. Being able to track all data on the same file on the same screen is an update that I hope can happen. I believe between Jessica Bhalerao, the FIRST Program Director and the fine people at Perkin-Elmer, I believe these can be combined in some way. I have not had a chance to closely analyze the protein and oil (labeled as "fat" on the computer readout), as my plot harvest is taking a long time to complete. I have approximately 8 days left to finish my FIRST corn plot harvest. I will be able to provide more details by mid-November, describing the harvest process, and upload more photos of the installation process for the Perkin-Elmer 7350. For now, please know that I am excited about finding out if the protein and oil data I collected while harvesting each plot will match the data from samples sent in for analysis at the University of Minnesota. Photos and videos to be uploaded soon.

Updated March 18, 2024:
see attached

View uploaded report PDF file

Final Project Results

Updated May 15, 2024:
Visit our Website:

View uploaded report PDF file

Benefit To Soybean Farmers

This project will demonstrate a potential new tool for management of identity preserved (IP) soybeans: the combine mounted NIRS system. This system offers the farmer near instantaneous soybean quality analysis (moisture, crude protein, and crude oil) that is needed to meet IP crop standards during harvest. Soon fatty acid and essential amino acid detection will be available using the same instrument. This information can be used by the farmer to make soybean sorting decisions from the combine during harvest, reducing the risk of rejecting the soybeans for failure to meet requirements. The data would also enhance transparency to the company clients of the soybean production process.
Farmers need to see the combine-mounted NIRS prove its value. The FIRST program provides trusted and independent research, and FIRST’s soybean trials already include soybean quality sampling that can be leveraged to compare with this new in-field technology. The FIRST trials are conducted with randomized, replicated plots to rigorous research standards. The genetic variation in the plots will provide an excellent test of the NIRS system.
Positive and negative experiences associated with this new technology will be provided through official reports, presentations to grower groups, at MN Ag Expo and through media materials. Negative experiences such as system stability, installation difficulties, differences between lab and field results will also be included in the reports and during educational events.
The project will demonstrate new technology available to growers now. Collecting soybean compositional data (moisture, crude protein, oil) would be helpful in making timely storage decisions at harvest. Growers will learn about combine-mounted NIRS, the near instantaneous availability of critical information for contract fulfillment, which could greatly enhance grower profitability.

The United Soybean Research Retention policy will display final reports with the project once completed but working files will be purged after three years. And financial information after seven years. All pertinent information is in the final report or if you want more information, please contact the project lead at your state soybean organization or principal investigator listed on the project.