The Agricultural Industry’s Need for Quantitative Moisture Readings

Aug 18th 2020

Why Do You Need Quantitative Readings?

Moisture Readings

Within the agricultural industry, precise moisture measurements are crucial for optimizing harvest times and verifying that harvested crops are ready for storage. Moisture meter accuracy can be more pressing for some applications than others. From this, it is important to understand the difference between qualitative and quantitative moisture readings.

A Quantitative Moisture Reading is a representation of the moisture content of a sample material which is achieved by using a moisture meter specifically calibrated for testing moisture in that material. Moisture readings from wood or drywall are an excellent example of quantitative moisture readings.

A Qualitative Moisture Reading is an estimated value using an arbitrary scale, an example being the results given by a reference scale moisture meter. The reading gives a rough approximation of moisture content that may not translate into a specific moisture content percentage.

The difference between quantitative moisture readings and qualitative is simply precise measurements versus getting “just an idea.” Quantitative readings represent an absolute measurement of moisture content in each material. Qualitative readings can be useful for comparison but is ultimately not precise enough for many agricultural professionals. The agricultural industry depends on moisture readings to optimize harvest times and verify that harvested crops are ready for storage.

Accurate, quantitative moisture measurements are especially crucial in the storage of hay or other tightly baled forage. Hay that is too wet when collected develops bacteria that may grow out of control. Bacteria will cause the hay to decompose and lose its nutritional value—forcing the farmer to discard their hay. At high levels, the growing bacteria could cause a tightly packed bale of hay to spontaneously combust leading to fires and dust explosions in the barn or hay silo. This is an absolute danger to the health and safety of farmers, livestock, or anyone in the vicinity.

Hay Moisture Meter

Moisture content levels in baled hay varies depending on the type of bale. According to Delmhorst Instrument Company, here are the acceptable moisture ranges of different types of hay bales:

  • Small Square Bales. These bales tend to be less dense than other bale types. Ideally, these bales should have between 18% and 20% moisture to best balance quality and safety.
  • Large Square Bales. Denser than small square bales, large square bales have a lower tolerance for moisture. The ideal moisture range for these bales is between 12% and 16%.
  • Round Hay Bales. These bales have a similar density to large square bales. So, they are typically best kept at a moisture content of 15%.

Quantitative moisture readings from these moisture meters are necessary to be certain that the moisture content of a tightly-packed hay bale is in an acceptable moisture range. Bales that are too wet can result in a fire while bales that are too dry diminish nutritional value. In the case of measuring hay moisture, having the most accurate readings is a must, from accurate hay moisture meters. Quantitative readings are also useful for other crops, such as cotton, tobacco, and grain, to prevent spoilage or giving away free dry weight when selling these crops.