GOSHEN, Ind. — Last week I wrote about mapping weed escapes in fields. With increasing numbers of herbicide resistant weeds, it’s becoming more important to remember just where problems occurred. You do not want to rely on your memory when planning for 2021 weed control.
Another important aspect of managing the spread of weed seed is cleaning of the field equipment, in particular the combine. On average, a clean combine will pick up 150 pounds of plant material in a field. Combines are a very effective way to spread seeds all over your farm.
If you imagine, a single Palmer amaranth or waterhemp plant can have 500,000 to 1 million seeds, it does not take much to imagine those tiny seeds hitching a ride to the next field. If you can avoid running them through the harvester, great! If you cannot, harvest those fields last, followed by a thorough cleaning of the combine, the grain cart, and the hauling trucks.
Iowa State’s publication on combine cleaning recommends these steps. To start the cleaning procedure, run the unloading auger empty for at least one minute. Remove the header from the combine. Open the clean grain and tailings elevator doors, rock trap and unloading auger sump. Dust masks and googles should be worn to protect your lungs and eyes.
Start the combine and separator, adjust the cleaning shoe fan to full speed for maximum airflow, and alternately open and close the cleaning shoe sieves electronically. Adjust the rotor to full speed for maximum air suction and alternately open and close the concaves. Operate the combine this way for at least two minutes and drive over the end rows of a harvested field or rough terrain to dislodge more material.
Next, thoroughly vacuum inside the grain tank from top to bottom, including all ledges, steps, lights, sensors, wiring and around the window to the cab. Clean the unloading auger by packing 1.5 cubic feet of pinewood chips into the sump. Remove the combine head, if you haven’t already. Lower the combine’s feederhouse to the ground and use compressed air to blow out the interior. Remove material from all joints, crevices and feederhouse chains. Shake chains to loosen material. Each area may require repeated blowing and vacuuming.
Raise the feederhouse and lock it in place. Open the rock trap door and loosen the biomaterial. If present, pull down the rubber seal between the feederhouse and the rotor to dislodge additional plant material. Use compressed air and the vacuum.
Remove access panels and rotor–cylinder concaves and clean the rotor–cylinder and threshing area. Use compressed air first, and then vacuum. Pry out lodged plant material from the front rotor–cylinder section and remove it with the vacuum. Clean the concaves and the remaining rotor–cylinder cage. Use compressed air directed to the back side of the rasp bar sections to remove residue. If concaves were removed, reattach and vacuum remaining residue from the rotor–cylinder area.
Remove residue from the clean grain augers or shaker pan below the rotor–cylinder. Clean the chopper by removing plant material from the rotor. Open the sieves to maximum width and remove the covers of the bottom cross augers (if present). Force compressed air through the sieves. Inspect lower cross augers to vacuum any remaining debris before replacing the cross-auger covers.
Clean the elevators by opening the lower doors and shaking the conveyor chains to dislodge any material. Open and empty the moisture sensor and reassemble.
Likewise, cleaning the exterior areas of the combine is important. Use compressed air to remove residue from the spreader assembly and rear axle. Remove residue from the combine chassis: ledges behind access panels, above the fuel tank, all standing platforms, cab roof and around the outside of the feederhouse, including guards and shields.
The University of Wisconsin has a brief video on combine cleaning that can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDMq1UanSkE.
— Jeff Burbrink, Extension Educator, Purdue Extension Elkhart County
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