Monitoring grain moisture is important so that growers can decide when to
harvest. If harvesting's done when moisture levels are too high, more grain may
be damaged by machinery during threshing and shelling. But if harvesting occurs
when the moisture level is too low, more grain may be damaged by kernel
breakage and lost because of shattering and shelling. Moisture is also critical
in determining how long grain can be safely stored, and it helps determine
A new technique uses an antenna to transmit microwaves into commodities such
as corn, wheat, barley, or soybeans. How the waves are altered as they pass
through the grains or beans spells out how much moisture is present.
The new procedure automatically adjusts for different commodities,
eliminating the need to change calibrations. It also compensates for variances
in grain density and temperature.
The technique could provide continuous moisture monitoring for use on
combines and on grain-handling or conveying equipment. Scientists believe the
system could be cost effective if developed and commercialized.
Stuart O. Nelson,
USDA-ARS Quality Assessment Research
Unit, Athens, Georgia; phone (706) 546-3101.
An electrostatic system that keeps surface dust near its source also has a
sterilizing effect on disease-causing bacteria. Originally designed to trap
dust and microorganisms in poultry areas, the system transfers a strong
negative electrostatic charge to airborne particles and collects them on
grounded plates or other surfaces.
The electrostatic system has reduced Salmonella and other airborne
pathogens by 80 to 95 percent in experimental and commercial hatching cabinets.
Airborne dust in poultry areas has been reduced by 50 to 95 percent. When used
within 6 inches of biofilmscoatings formed by bacteria that stick to
surfaces and form a protective layerthe system has reduced them by up to
99.8 percent and killed 99 percent or more of airborne Salmonella.
Biolon, Inc., of Athens, Georgia, collaborated on the research and holds an
exclusive license to manufacture and market this technology.
Bailey W. Mitchell,
USDA-ARS Southeast Poultry Research
Laboratory, Athens, Georgia; phone (706) 546-3443.
Poultry Litter Ash Perks Up Plants
Researchers have found an added bonus to burning poultry litter for
electricity: The residue makes good fertilizer. This alternative use for
poultry litter could reduce production costs for farmers while promoting better
plant growth and helping the environment. Studies have shown the total
concentration of phosphorus in litter ash to be higherbut less water
solublethan in unburned litter. Ash is also lighter than poultry litter
and easier to transport to areas where such fertilizer is needed.
Wheat plants grown in limed and nonlimed soil fertilized with poultry ash or
potassium phosphate produced similar yields. But plants receiving litter ash
had higher amounts of phosphorus in their tissues than did plants fertilized
with potassium phosphate. This indicates that the nutrient from the ash was
readily available for uptake by plant roots. Further studies are needed to
determine optimal levels of litter ash for commercial production of wheat and
other agricultural crops and to establish the economic value to farmers.
Eton E. Codling,
Manure and By-Products Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland; phone (301)