Accurate assessment of standing pasture biomass in livestock production systems is a major factor for improving feed planning. Several tools are available to achieve this, including the GrassMaster II capacitance meter. This tool relies on an electrical signal, which is modified by the surrounding pasture. There is limited knowledge on how this capacitance meter performs in Mediterranean pastures. Therefore, we evaluated the GrassMaster II under Mediterranean conditions to determine (i) the effect of pasture moisture content (PMC) on the meter’s ability to estimate pasture green matter (GM) and dry matter (DM) yields, and (ii) the spatial variability and temporal stability of corrected meter readings (CMR) and DM in a bio-diverse pasture. Field tests were carried out with typical pastures of the southern region of Portugal (grasses, legumes, mixture and volunteer annual species) and at different phenological stages (and different PMC). There were significant positive linear relations between CMR and GM (r2 = 0.60, P < 0.01) and CMR and DM (r2 = 0.35, P < 0.05) for all locations (n = 347). Weak relationships were found for PMC (%) v. slope and coefficient of determination for both GM and DM. A significant linear relation existed for CMR v. GM and DM for PMC >80% (r2 = 0.57, P < 0.01, RMSE = 2856.7 kg ha–1, CVRMSE = 17.1% to GM; and r2 = 0.51, P < 0.01, RMSE = 353.7 kg ha–1, CVRMSE = 14.3% to DM). Therefore, under the conditions of this current study there exists an optimum PMC (%) for estimating both GM and DM with the GrassMaster II. Repeated-measurements taken at the same location on different dates and conditions in a bio-diverse pasture showed similar and stable patterns between CMR and DM (r2 = 0.67, P < 0.01, RMSE = 136.1 kg ha–1, CVRMSE = 6.5%). The results indicate that the GrassMaster II in-situ technique could play a crucial role in assessing pasture mass to improve feed planning under Mediterranean conditions.
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Vol. 67 • No. 7