Clean Farm Equipment Between Fields to Avoid Spreading Weed Seed

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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Plant material on combines can spread weed seed from field to field. Clean the combine between fields to prevent the spread of weed seed. (DTN photo by Matthew Wilde)

Across the Corn Belt, combines are rolling across fields to harvest the corn and soybean crops.

While combines separate the grain from the plant material, combines do retain some of the discarded plant material which can be deposited in the next field. With herbicide resistance in weeds a major issue, it's important to look out for traveling weed seed on the combine.

Tom Peters, North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension sugarbeet agronomist, said as much as 150 pounds of biomaterial can accumulate on a combine.

"This material many remain in tight places or in obvious places, such as the gathering head and grain tank," Johnson said in a press release.

While removing all debris isn't possible, farmers should take the time to clean equipment between fields to reduce moving weed seed and other material from one field to another, according to Angie Johnson, NDSU Extension agriculture and natural resources agent in Steele County.

"Before you start cleaning your combine and other farm equipment, take the time to put on the proper personal protective equipment (PPE)," Johnson added.

Here are some steps for cleaning the combine from the North Central Agricultural and Natural Resources Academy:

-- Run the unloading auger while it is empty for a minute.

-- Open the clean grain and tailings elevator doors, rock trap and unloading auger sump.

-- Start combine and separator. Adjust for maximum airflow. Operate the combine this way for at least two minutes for self-cleaning.

-- Clean out any material left in the rock trap.

-- Use a leaf blower or air compressor to remove material from the exterior of the combine, focusing on the head, feeder house and axle and straw spreader at the rear of the machine.

-- Close the doors to the rock trap and clean the grain elevator and the unloading auger sump.

The combine should always be shut off when working in direct contact with moving parts.

Another reason to remove plant material from a combine is to prevent a possible combine fire. In many incidents, combustible plant material built up on a combine's surface and some spark started this material on fire.

The only time I have ever had to use a fire extinguisher on a piece of farm equipment occurred during corn harvest probably about 10 years ago. There was some plant material on the underside of the combine which started to smolder.

The surface for some reason got hot and the plant material was right there ready to burn. Luckily, we caught it when we did.

We became much better at taking the time to blow the combine off every once in a while during harvest after this incident.

For more information about equipment cleanout, visit….

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