ABE 885 Syllabus

ABE 885: Biomass Harvesting and Logistics (3). This course covers biomass handling options and relevant cost analysis, engineering principles of field equipment, new technology and practical methods of evaluation and testing, field performance of machine systems for biomass harvesting and handling operations, selection and management of field machine systems with efficiency and sustainability considerations. Prerequisite: ABE 884.


Prof Jude Liu

Dr. Jude Liu, P.E.
Associate Professor
Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering
227 Agricultural Engineering Building
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA 16802

Office Hours (Forum): Thursdays 8:00 - 10:00PM EST


Course Description

This course provides a broad foundation in machine field capacities, machine system limitations, efficiencies, power and fuel characteristics, and the economic performance of machine systems. Human factors and operator performance are discussed and considered in machine systems analysis. Calculation and field evaluation methods of a machine system will be discussed focusing on power requirements, fuel consumption, and material efficiency. Field harvesting and handling activities in commercial farms will be used as examples.

Engineering principles of typical harvesting machines and their power units, such as hay tools, material handling equipment, storage, and transportation facilities will be studied. Videos taken from field performance evaluation of machine systems will be used as examples in classroom discussion. Standards and regulations relevant to machine performance and field operations will also be discussed.

Typical biomass harvesting and handling options and scenarios will be studied, and cost analysis commercial-scale examples will be used to demonstrate system capacity and cost analysis. Students will then be guided to compare the costs for different scenarios of biomass logistics systems.

Relevant standards and regulations will be introduced in specific sections. These standards and regulations cover test methods, safety regulations, and environmental policies. Organizations that publish these rules will include but not limited ASABE (American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers), EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers), and other institutions such as ISO, ANSI, etc.

This course serves as a foundation for those wishing to manage machine systems in biomass production area. Machine systems are an integral part of many agricultural operations from field production to post-harvest processing, storage, transportation, and bio-based processing. Biomass feedstock logistics and bioenergy production systems heavily rely on machine systems.

This course consists of lectures, field observations, and open-ended projects. At least one project will require participants to observe real commercial field harvesting/handling operations, evaluate the system, and then propose improvements. Practical examples will focus on testing and evaluating machine performance using prototype machines and instruments.

The prerequisite to this course, ABE 884, provides a broad overview of the nature of biomass feedstocks, their availability, and usage. ABE 885 builds on the requisite background and focuses on biomass harvesting, handling, and cost issues. ABE 885 is one of the set of required courses for the Bioenergy option.

Disclaimer: The machines/equipment used in this course are chosen based on purposes of instruction; not for any commercial purposes; nor reflecting personal opinions on the machine discussed. Permission to use brand names and images of equipment has been granted by the manufacturer(s).

Main topics in this course include:

  1. Biomass Logistics Overview
  2. Crop Planting and Equipment
  3. Herbaceous Crop Harvesting and Equipment
  4. Machinery Costs
  5. Field Capacity of Farm Machines
  6. Power Performance of Field Machine Systems
  7. CAN bus (ISO bus) and its application in Biomass Harvesting and Logistics 
  8. Woody Biomass Harvesting, Handling, and Processing
  9. Analysis of Biomass Harvesting Machine Systems (case study)
  10. Limitations and Constraints of Biomass Harvesting Systems (case study)
  11. Computer Models of Biomass Feedstock Logistics
  12. Project


Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Characterize operational performance of farm machines and select suitable machines for a specific application of biomass harvesting and handling.
  2. Quantitatively evaluate and improve the economic performance of a machine system accomplishing a biomass logistics task.
  3. Calculate costs for a variety of machine systems to perform specific biomass harvesting and/or handling tasks.
  4. Apply safety and environmental regulations to biomass harvesting and handling activities.
  5. Demonstrate strong technical report writing skills.


Evaluation Methods

Students in this course will be required to read assigned literature and conduct field observations to deepen their knowledge, understanding, and develop the ability to apply the engineering principles of machines for agricultural and biological processing to biomass harvesting, handling, and processing systems management.  

Note: If the project is not conducted or completed as required, the course will receive failing grade. Details can be found from “Project requirements and rubrics” in later modules.

Assignments & Quizzes (8) 64%
Project 36%
Total 100%
Grading Scale
Excellent A 93 - 100
  A- 88 - 92
Good B+ 82 - 87
  B 77 - 81
  B- 72 - 76
  C+ 66 - 71
Satisfactory C 61 - 65
  D 56 - 60
Failure F 0 - 55

Course Policies and Guidelines

  1. Assignments/Quizzes will be due according to the dates listed in the Canvas Syllabus page unless otherwise noted by the instructor.
  2. Graphical results and tables must have captions and be completely labeled with units.
  3. Students are responsible for any of their missed work. The instructor will NOT be obligated to inform students of any missed work.
  4. Late work will lose 10% of the maximum total possible for the given assignment for each day late (unless prior approval was obtained from the instructor).
  5. Reading assignments are selected carefully; they will be included in exams and quizzes.
  6. Students must review Canvas module pages in sequential order to access the associated assignment or quiz.



Chapter 6: Harvest Systems and Analysis for Herbaceous Biomass. Biomass Now – Cultivation and Utilization, Ed. Miodrag Darko Matovic. 2013. InTech. Open Access.

ASABE Standards (standard numbers will be provided when needed in specific lessons) available in ASABE Technical Library. Please note that you may need to register as an ASABE member and then you will have free access to ASABE standards from the technical library mentioned above. To access the library, click on the Resources tab in ANGEL, then the Library Guides link and then the link for the ASABE Technical Library. You must be logged in through Penn State to have free access to the standards.

Additional course readings and materials may be provided within each module.

NOTE:  If you are planning to graduate this semester, please communicate your intent to graduate to your instructor. This will alert your instructor to the need to submit your final grade in time to meet the published graduation deadlines. For more information about graduation policies and deadlines, please see "Graduation" on the World Campus Student Policies Web site


PSU Policies

Log-In Policy

Students are expected to log-in regularly to keep up-to date with announcements, discussions, etc. The class will progress at a regular pace throughout the semester and there are specific due dates and times for assignments, etc.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner. Academic integrity is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity at The Pennsylvania State University, and all members of the University community are expected to act in accordance with this principle. Consistent with this expectation, students should act with personal integrity, respect other students' dignity, rights and property, and help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts. Academic integrity includes a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation or deception. Such acts of dishonesty violate the fundamental ethical principles of the University community and compromise the worth of work completed by others (see Faculty Senate Policy 49-20 , G-9 Procedures and the Code of Conduct).

Read the Academic Integrity Guidelines for the College of Agricultural Sciences.

A lack of knowledge or understanding of the University’s Academic Integrity policy and the types of actions it prohibits and/or requires does not excuse one from complying with the policy. Penn State and the College of Agricultural Sciences take violations of academic integrity very seriously. Faculty, alumni, staff and fellow students expect each student to uphold the University’s standards of academic integrity both inside and outside of the classroom.

Copyright Notice

All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor’s express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD 40, the University Policy Recording of Classroom Activities and Note Taking Services addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws.

Accommodations for Persons with Disabilities

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University’s educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Student Disability Resources Web site provides contact information for every Penn State campus. For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources Web site.

In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

Penn State staff  works with thousands of students per year in group therapy, individual counseling, crisis intervention, and psychiatric services as well as providing prevention, outreach, and consultation services for the University community. Services at CAPS are designed to enhance students' ability to fully benefit from the University environment and academic experience.

Staff at CAPS can help students address concerns in a caring and supportive environment. CAPS can help students resolve personal concerns that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, and satisfaction at Penn State. Some of the more common concerns include anxiety, depression, difficulties in relationships (friends, roommates, or family); sexual identity; lack of motivation or difficulty relaxing, concentrating or studying; eating disorders; sexual assault and sexual abuse recovery; and uncertainties about personal values and beliefs. For more information, please visit the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) website.

Accommodations for Military Personnel

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.

Use of Trade Names

Where trade names are used, no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the World Campus, Outreach and Cooperative Extension, the College of Agricultural Sciences, or The Pennsylvania State University is implied.

Subject to Change Statement

Please note that this Course Syllabus is subject to change. Students are responsible for abiding by such changes.