The Best Way to Get Accurate Moisture Content Measurements

Posted by Tom Laurenzi on Aug 7, 2017 11:00:00 AM

Farmers often need to know exactly how much moisture is in their agricultural products to maximize quality and prevent spoilage. Depending on the kind of crops you’re testing, there are a few ways that you can get a moisture content (%MC) measurement.

For example, in agriculture, the most common testing methods are:

  • Hand Tests. A method whereby the farmer checks the moisture of a plant, such as hops or hay, by their look and feel.
  • Oven-Dry Tests. This method uses ovens, dehydrators, or even microwaves to dry out a sample of material. The pre-drying weight is compared to the post-drying weight to determine how much moisture was lost, and so find out what the %MC by weight of the sample was.
  • Moisture Meter Tests. This method uses a specialized device called a moisture meter to determine the %MC of the material. These pin meters use electrical resistance to measure the presence of water. The less resistance there is to the electrical current, the more moisture there is in the plant matter.

The question is, which of these methods is the best way to get an accurate moisture content measurement for agriculture?

Hand Tests

For all but the most experienced farmers, hand tests are not a viable option for measuring moisture in most plants or even in the soil. Although these tests are fast and don’t use specialized equipment to measure moisture, they also don’t provide a quantifiable measurement of %MC in a crop.

Oven Tests

Oven dry tests can be highly accurate when performed correctly. Of all the different testing methods, oven dry tests are considered the most reliable for establishing the moisture content of nearly any type of plant matter.

However, these tests have some drawbacks:

  • They Tend to Be Slow. Oven dry tests using dehydrators or ovens can take hours to complete. In that time, the %MC of hay or hops in the field could change significantly. Microwave ovens are faster, taking only minutes, but there is a risk of burning the plant matter being tested.

  • They Destroy the Plant Matter Being Tested. Simply put, the oven dry test is destructive to the plant matter being tested. Any samples taken will be too damaged by the drying process to be used. This, in turn, means that farmers can only test a very small percentage of their hay, hops, or other crops.

Pin-Type Moisture Meters

Agricultural moisture meters set the gold standard for measuring the moisture content of hay and other crop types. In most cases, a pin-type moisture meter that’s been made for measuring moisture in a particular crop is as fast (if not faster) than a hand test and nearly as accurate as the oven-dry test.

All a farmer has to do is collect a few plants, push the pins of the moisture meter into them, and press a button to get a near-instant measurement of the %MC for that sample.

Additionally, the sample of plant matter that is tested with a moisture meter is typically left unharmed—so a farmer seeking to do so can test all of their hay or hops with moisture meter without have to mulch valuable plants.

There are even specialized moisture meter probes that can be inserted into the ground to take readings of moisture conditions in the soil—helping farmers optimize their irrigation efforts to conserve water or replenish water-starved crops.

For speed, accuracy, and convenience, moisture meters are the best of the bunch for measuring the %MC of plants such as hops, hay, rice, tobacco, grain, and many others. Find out how you can use agricultural moisture meters to increase crop yields and quality today!

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Topics: Moisture meter accuracy