All course information is listed within this syllabus.

ABE 885: Biomass Harvesting and Logistics (3 credits). 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


Instructor for ABE 885

Dr. Jude Liu, P.E.
Associate Professor

Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering
227 Agricultural Engineering Building
University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-863-6844

Office Hours (Forum): Thursdays 8:00-10:00 p.m. EST

Course Overview

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 the 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 the 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 mechanical 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 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 Machinery
  6. Power Performance of Field Machine Systems
  7. CAN 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. Course Project

Course Objectives

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

  1. Characterize the 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.

Course Schedule

For due dates, refer to the Course Summary on the Syllabus page in Canvas.

Grading Policy

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 a failing grade. Details can be found from "Project requirements and rubrics" in later modules.

Grading Criteria
Requirement Cumulative Point Value Weight
Participation 0 0%
Assignments/Quizzes 900 64%
Project 200 36%
TOTAL: 1100 100%
Grading Scheme
Rating Letter Grade Percentage
Excellent A 100% – 93%
A- < 93% – 88%
Good B+ < 88% – 82%
B < 82% – 77%
B- < 77% – 72%
C+ < 72% – 66%
Satisfactory C < 66% – 61%
D < 61% – 56%
Failure F < 56%

Please refer to the University Grading Policy for Graduate Courses for additional information.

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" under World Campus Student Resources.

Course Policies and Guidelines

  1. Assignments/Quizzes will be due according to the dates listed on 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 (PDF). Biomass Now - Cultivation and Utilization, Ed. Miodrag Darko Matovic. 2013. InTech. Open Access.

ASABE Standards (standard numbers will be provided when needed in specific modules) 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. Access E-Reserves for this course by selecting the Library Resources link on the navigation menu 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.

Online Students Use of the Library

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Technical Requirements

This course is offered online and it is assumed you possess the minimum system requirements and computing skills to participate effectively. A list of technical requirements is listed on World Campus' Penn State Technical Requirements page.

Minimum Skills

  • You should have an understanding of basic computer usage (creating folders/directories, switching between programs, formatting and backing up media, accessing the internet).
  • You must be able to conduct word processing tasks such as creating, editing, saving, and retrieving documents.
  • You must be able to use a web browser to open web pages, download files, and search the internet.
  • You must be able to use an e-mail program to send and receive messages and to attach and download documents/files.
  • You must be able to download and install programs or plug-ins from the internet.

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