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Thread: Brix

  1. Default Brix

    The Brix meter complements biological farming. If you look after your soil properly, (encourage soil activity like worms, microbes, nitrogen fixing plants etc), the grasses and crops growing in it will increase their Brix reading over time, and this indicates the total percent solids dissolved in the plant juice or sap is increasing = more sucrose, fructans, salts etc in the crop. The Brix readings should equate to QUALITY of the measured item.

    In the case of grasses, it is a guideline to the maturity, MJME and protein content of the grass. Google 'Brix' and 'biological farming' for a lot more detail. Private sector unpublished research shows strong links between improving the Brix of grasses and supplements for cows and ruminants, and their milk Brix or other outputs, and FARM PROFITS.

    Average ryegrass has a Brix value (sugar activity) of 2-6% in the morning, and it usually rises to a reading of 8%-13% or so in the afternoon on a sunny day. Cows and ruminants love higher-Brix forage mixtures, and their general health markedly improves when eating it.

  2. Default

    Novel Ways staff have recently carried out a small amount of scientific research into the use of Brix meters on grasses and legumes (not peer reviewed). The writeup for this work is available on our website here:


    We have not found any other Brix work for grasses published on the web.

    The results were significant: using careful procedures, a Brix average reading on various paddock samples on the same day and time period was strongly related to the average amount of sucrose (simple sugars) in the plant saps. Those paddock samples with the higher Brix readings would have been sweeter in taste.

    What does this mean for farming practice? We would expect that farmers would observe their stock preferring this higher-Brix feed, if they have a choice. They would tend to stop immediately on finding such feed, and begin cropping closely. Feed utilisation efficiency might improve as a result, with less grass getting trampled.

    Over time, animal health might improve. We think it's possible that ruminants might be able to convert more of the organic matter that they eat, when it is higher-Brix. The conversion efficiency of this process is normally anywhere from just 15% to 60%. Farmers that measure and try to improve Brix readings on their pasture often note that their stock have more solid movements, which could imply that their digestive systems are working more correctly.

    Unfortunately, we don't know of any scientific research which has tested any of these ideas.
    Last edited by Graham; 16th August 2009 at 06:48 PM.

  3. #3

    Default Pasture brix readings, why the controversy?

    BRIX (oBx) is a measurement of the dissolved sugar to water ratio of a liquid. (the standard is sucrose at reference temperature of 20oC). It is normally measured with a refractometer in oBx. A 25oBx solution is 25% (sw) or 25grams of sugar per 100grams of solution or 25 grams of sucrose and 75grams of water by weight per 100grams of solution. Where Brix is measured with solutions containing contaminants such as cell walls and non sugar molecules it is not strictly correct to refer to this as a true Brix reading, but as a refractometric dried substance (RDS) i.e. total dried solids. It gives an approximate measurement of sucrose and as most of the dried solids will probably be sucrose, to all intents and purposes will be accurate enough for farming purposes.
    Pasture in New Zealand is
    composed largely of perennial ryegrass and white clover.
    This assumes that heavy handed use of nitrate fertiliser hasnít subdued the clover!
    There are other plant varieties used, but for the purpose of this discussion I will use ryegrass to illustrate the points made.
    We are aware that ryegrass is composed largely of sugars, CO2 fixation by photosynthesis provides two of the most important plant functions: -
    (a) Glucose based long chain polymers as cellulose in the plant cell walls. This is one of most important products of CO2 fixation, cellulose is the main support system, or the skeleton of the plant.
    (b) the individual cell contents, a jelly like substance called protoplasm which is divided into two major parts, the nucleus and the cytoplasm. Put simply the nucleus is essentially the information store and the cytoplasm is the chemical factory for the cell. Sucrose, the main energy store for the plant, is formed in the cytoplasm of the cell from glucose and fructose molecules. When this energy is required by the plant it is reconverted to glucose and fructose by enzyme action.
    In theory (b) should have the greatest appeal to cattle i.e. more palatable, equals more eaten, equals correct fertiliser regime, equals more production for the farmer. What it doesnít show is that of the total sugars, how much is locked up in the cellulose and hemicellulose cell wall part of the plant, which has the lowest palatability and digestibility available to the cow. It is well known that cows eat the new growths first! Kids to lollies! Ruminants are designed to utilise cellulose, it doesnít mean that they necessarily like it!
    Remember Brix is only one management tool available to farmers, it cannot be used in isolation. It doesnít change the need for good management practices. We have a large amount of anecdotal evidence that Brix works on New Zealand farms, however this lacks verification! For some obscure reason the scientific community remains either quiet (perhaps if you ignore it will go away) or scathingly opposed to Brix,(another Greenies stunt) as a farming tool without doing the research What we need is, good, peer reviewed, scientific research to prove one way or the other that Brix has/or has not a place on the modern farm!

  4. Default

    Thanks for your contribution grassmaster..

    Novel Ways have sold quite a few brix meters to farmers over the last year, and would like to hear any feedback from their results.

    In the meantime, Dr Doug Edmeades (AgKnowledge) intends to write an article about Brix measurements on grass, and this should appear on his website at some stage. We'll try and post a copy back here. He's using our writeup as one of the source materials.

    We have also discussed Brix readings with forage experts at nearby DairyNZ, without too much interest at this stage. But if anything, it's becoming more likely that some research work will be done in future. There are other ways of measuring brix in materials: near infrared (NIR) instruments can be quite accurate and will also measure pH, digestibility, etc. But some handheld units of this type are $30,000 each.

  5. #5

    Default Brix

    I've been taking brix readings since 2003. Mostly on my small holding where I keep an eye on the stock. When they are sitting down, I'm happy. When they are standing, it's time they were moved. They grow like mushrooms. I don't drench or use any other nasties.

    My brix is around 13. High brix will mean stock will eat less DM, not more, as it is more filling. Just like food used to be. Being a small block I only fertilise once a year. I'll get a reading from my high N neighbour soon & post it.

    Little or no N is used. I used 9kg N last March, nothing prior to that, nothing since. (What a waste of money.) Clover content is 30% min. (Up to 60% around January.) No problem with bloat, FE, insects or anything else. The neighbour does have those problems & he used 235kg N last year & 191kg N the year before.

    Interestingly, my soil N is 324kg/ha. That is in the high bracket. (no reading for neighbours). My leaf N is 4.3%, (mid range) his is 2.7% (low). My August 2009 growth was 62kg/ha/day. His was 35kg/ha/day.

    Healthy plants emit frequencies that at least do not attract and perhaps repel insects, and unhealthy plants emit higher frequencies that attract insects. In other words the plant tells the insect to eat it when it is not healthy. It seems 12 brix is the min. at which insects & diseases will not affect a crop. However, some protection may be afforded even at 8% on a rising plane of nutrition.

    Insects and humans have extremely different digestive systems. It is ludicrous to even think that we share food with insects. However, it is so common now, we don't give it a second thought. The insect is the winner, so what are we? (No prizes for guessing.)

    Insects avoid high sugar concentrations. (Complex sugars ferment in the insects stomach and the alcohol kills them.) Butterflies, bees etc appreciate high sugar in flowers. Less than brix 7 means the bee spends more energy than it is worth to extract the nectar and process it. Even at 7 it is of doubtful benefit. Below 7 it will not even be attracted to the flower.

    Lower sugar (brix) in the maize leads to more stalk rot & lodging. I grew a maize crop biologically & it yielded 6% more than ever before & 13% greater than the previous year. Lodging was certainly reduced to almost nil. Brix was around 8%, so there was plenty of improvement to go. The area was 120ha.

    Two biological farms I measured the milk at 10. One organic one was 8, but we noticed some issues when that farm was inspected. The biology had been closed down by the use of the plough and it hadn't yet recovered.

    If sugar levels decrease, (they should increase in the course of a day), that could indicate a phosphorus problem. If the weeds test higher than the pasture, that is a P problem. Usually the available P is too low in relation to the K which is too high. This could be a typical NZ scenario.

    If the demarcation line on the refractometer is sharp, the probability is low calcium; if it is fuzzy or diffused, acid is low & calcium will be higher.

    If you use potassium chloride, your brix will drop 2 points. The answer is very simple. Don't use it under any circumstances for agricultural purposes.

    Fruit & Veg
    Ever risk a speeding ticket going home from the supermarket? The veggies go off that quickly, it's almost compulsory. Not so with high brix fruit & veg. Properly grown food tends not to rot, but it will dehydrate. Do you believe you can keep a picked cabbage for six months & it's still good? You can if you grow them properly.

    Have you heard that Carey Reams, in Florida, entered a water melon in the county fair, not once, not twice, but three times? That is, the same melon grown properly lasted for two years.

    Have you noticed when you eat sweetcorn, that it shows up in the toilet bowl? Go to the sewerage works & have a look around there. Peas & carrots will be added to the list. The veggies are not digested properly because they are not grown properly. Grow your own with compost & you will have properly digested food. The brix on this food is a lot higher than in the supermarket food. I recall testing supermarket lettuce and getting 1.5%. 4 is poor, 10 is excellent. By the way you don't see my seetcorn again. It's all digested.

    A student in California correlated lab Phosporus grape leaf test analyses with brix.

    Results were 0.1-1.0% P during the growing season. If P fell below 0.35%, the brix could not get to 12%. If 0.4-0.6%, the readings were 13-14% while grapes were filling. (Under stress.)

    Magnesium in the leaf was best kept at 0.4-0.5% with an absolute minimum of 0.3%. P could be 0.33% and brix would stay above 12%.

    If you do get above 12 brix & have insect problems, it will be because your calcium is too low. It needs to be a min. of 60% on the base saturation, but 68% is better. The yanks measure it as 2,000lbs/acre min.

    I feel like I've been hit by brix.
    Good night.
    Brett Petersen

  6. Default

    Brett, welcome to the forum and thanks for your input

    There haven't been that many farmers in NZ using a Brix meter on grass since 2003, so you'll have a lot of good information for this thread. It looks like your block has responded really well to biological farming.

    I have a few questions, if you don't mind.

    1. When, and how exactly, do you take Brix readings on grass? We've noticed at work that the technique and timing is very important, so it would be good if there is a common reading standard.

    2. Do you measure one particular species of grass or legume, or a sample of the whole paddock?

    3. What has been the general nutrient treatment for your farm(s) to get these results, has it been expensive or time consuming? Can the system be applied to a larger farm?

    4. I've seen some tables for Brix levels in various fruit and vegetables, but very little for grasses (not our ones anyway). Do you have any of these?

    5. Do you have many results for Brix of milk compared to the Brix of the fodder for the cows in the 48 hours before? (One of our customers is already noting higher milk output after high-brix grass is fed, and only feeds maize silage if the Brix is lower, to even out production). Not bad for a cheap tool..

    6. You mentioned higher sugar plant sap will deter insects, I've read this before, will try and locate scientific evidence. Do you have any?

    7. You state plants of high and low Brix give off different frequencies (or levels of emanations) and low brix plants attracting insects because of this. I've read the anecdotal evidence (two crops of same strain side by side etc) and would be very pleased to see research evidence. Is this in the visible, UV or IR area? It's not a scent difference is it? Related to the sugar content?

    There was a short article on TVNZ news on 29th September, Massey University is starting some research into biological farming techniques. I missed it, but apparently the research lead is Nicole Schon. This is good news too

    Here's the item, not a massive study at the moment..


    The above link might have lapsed, here's a list of the researchers in a Scoop article recently. 10-30% grass production improvement from worm introduction to low-activity soils? That's interesting.

    Last edited by Graham; 10th October 2009 at 04:30 PM. Reason: To add new links

  7. Default Dr Edmeades strikes again!

    The Brix Test
    Tuesday, 20 October 2009
    The Brix test is being promoted as a test of pasture quality.
    Dr Edmeades reveals why this test is technically unsound.
    "The test may help farmers focus their minds on pasture quality but does not measure the true nutrient value of pasture"
    See the FERTILISER REVIEW NO 23 for more in depth information.

    You have to register on the AgKnowledge website to read this article. Despite the good Dr. admitting to knowing little about Brix meters just a year or so ago - and I suspect he's probably not used one of the meters himself -, he is now setting the record straight.

    Dr Edmeades has not set up a right of reply on his own website, so we'll have to do it here. Remember, this forum aims to be the worldwide leading source of technical and field information on the Brix method as applied to pasture (grasses and legumes). So we don't want too many unsubstantiated comments from any quarter.
    Last edited by Graham; 23rd October 2009 at 12:41 PM. Reason: Heated debate

  8. Default Some beg to differ

    Before we have a look at Doug's article, here are some NZ farmers who are using biological farming practices, and note the prominent mention of Brix meters.


    They appear to be noticing different positive behaviour and performance in their stock, linked with increasing Brix readings on their forages.

  9. #9


    The Brix Test
    Dr. Doug Edmeades writes in ‘AgKnowledge; Fertiliser Review’ 23. Spring 2009:-

    (Removed post 23/10/2009 after legal action suggested by Doug Edmeades, as Grassmaster did not have written permission to copy the information.) See special terms and conditions on the AgKnowledge website.
    Last edited by Graham; 23rd October 2009 at 12:46 PM. Reason: Email and phone call

  10. Default

    Thanks for trying to post that GrassMaster, but we have been advised that we do not (and will not) have Doug's permission to post/copy his website's information onto the web. His information can be used for private use, see his site's Terms and Conditions if unsure.

    Those of you who are using Brix meters on pasture will now either be throwing them aside in disgust, or will have quite a bit to say about the above (linked) article. In defence of Dr Edmeades, there are some valid points that I have no argument with:

    Anything that causes pastoral farmers to have a look at their grass in detail, is good. The Brix refractometer is only looking at a part of the whole plant. Brix meters are used by horticulturalists to quantify the taste/quality and maturity of a fruit, and they are very useful for that.

    If you have a look at the other threads I've started on this site, I have this overview on pastoral farming in NZ at the moment:

    Grassland farming is very energy inefficient. In terms of incident solar and the small other input energy (diesel, power) compared to output energy in goods at the farm gate, milk production from cows is just 0.06% efficient on average, and meat production is even worse, maybe 0.03%. Our system only works because the sun's vast energy is free. To increase efficiency, the easiest place to get results is in forage production.

    While Doug mentions clover quite a bit in various articles, most NZ farms now have a lot of trouble keeping clover, as some introduced pests and expensive chemical nitrogen don't always favour clover, they hold it back (ryegrass shades clover etc). General loss of biological activity in the soils (looked for worms in your paddocks lately?) means we are often growing a one-or-two species forage that ruminants can find relatively unpalatable. So the next step that scientists have proposed, is to ensure the grass is eaten well down (LUDF etc research), to 'improve the quality' of the next growth.

    Any farmer can tell you that a pugged or heavily eaten paddock will be slower to recover than one more lightly grazed. Grass grows grass, because the plant prefers some photosynthesis going on at all times. So I think that all grass grown on a farm (at any stage of maturity) should be as palatable as possible.

    In the same way that a Brix meter indicates sweet grapes, we have proven that you can measure sweet grass very accurately. That research work cost us a fair bit, and is posted to the internet for all to see. Cows like sugar too: they just don't get the choice very often.

    And now the hard part. Where is the research that compares two herds of cows on the same farm, one herd being fed a higher-brix forage (ideally of the same pasture species) and the other being fed significantly lower brix, over a period of time? We'd be looking for milk output changes (quality and quantity), herd health, weight gain, cow behaviour patterns, etc. Anecdotally, that data is already there, and strongly in favour of Brix , but until the scientists knock out some "peer reviewed" papers on this fairly fundamental research, anyone using a Brix meter on pasture can be called into disrepute.

    Doug has also failed to supply the details of any alternative equipment farmers could use to measure pasture quality without resorting to frequent lab tests (which are basically impractical). We did some of those 2kg quick-frozen samples ourselves, and we'd never do it on a daily basis. But you could measure Brix daily, no problem.

    The other point I'd like to make: if you have two paddocks side by side, same pasture strains, similar soils and grass maturity, and coincident with higher soil biological activity one paddock has higher Brix readings, palatability and production, what does that mean in terms of scientific proof? I'd suggest that the Brix meter deserves a great deal more attention than a lighthearted fob-off for advertising purposes.

    Doug, if you like, I'll send you a free Brix meter/pasture kit and you can run a few tests in your travels. We provide an information booklet with it. You're welcome to try and prove me wrong.
    Last edited by Graham; 23rd October 2009 at 12:38 PM. Reason: Heated debate

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