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Farmers using auger carts, tracked machinery to capitalize on sketchy harvest windows

This fall's long, drawn-out corn and soybean harvest has
convinced some farmers of the value of iron they otherwise hadn't put to use on
their farms. In other words, in an effort to combat the muck and mud they've
encountered in harvesting rain-delayed, soggy fields, auger grain carts and
tracked machinery has proven its worth this year, farmers say.

So, what's an auger grain cart worth in the field? A lot,
says one farmer and Agriculture.com Machinery Talk member. cliff seia says he's
seen gains in harvest capacity of 30% to 40% in his fields, sometimes up to
50%. That's if conditions make it tough to get a semi into the muddy fields.

"This is our 12th season with a grain cart and our
combine dumps on the go 98% of the time now," cliff seia says in a
Machinery Talk discussion. "We dumped on the go some before the grain cart
but when it gets wet like this year a gravity wagon won't get through the mud
like a grain cart will. In the mud this year the grain cart has more than
doubled our combining capacity because we haven't had any field yet were it
would have been dry enough to load wagons in the field which would have meant
the combine would have had to go to the road to dump every time and that kills
combine productivity."

And, if you've got the acres, an auger cart can in some
situations go a long way to offsetting other, more expensive iron, another
farmer says. "It makes a huge difference in efficency. We almost never
harvest without it and we only farm small grains that yield 50 to 100
bushels/acre," adds Machinery Talk member NDnotiller. "Two combines
and a cart can harvest as much as 3 machines without, assuming the same model
combines."

And, if you don't have an auger cart yet, getting one could
change how you lay out your fields and manage harvest. This has definitely
added some efficiency to cliff seia's farm, he says. "Having the grain
cart has let us increase field sizes since we aren't limited by how far the
combine can go without dumping," he adds.

Redesigning the wheel

There are pros and cons to tracked machinery: Pros include
getting more of the wheels' torque and horsepower to the ground, creating a
larger footprint that does better in muddy conditions that otherwise might have
conventional wheels.

"You've got a lot more rubber on the ground with them,
and a wider footprint," says Brian Greiner, sales manager for Sigourney
Tractor and Implement in Sigourney, Iowa. "Typically with tracks, you have
a narrower footprint so you're maybe not getting compaction in as big an
area."

But, just getting around in the field in a waterlogged fall
like 2009 has more farmers looking into tracked tractors and combines. Greiner
says his shop has installed 2 sets of tracks on combines for customers in
recent weeks. They're a little on the expensive side, but the farmers who have
had them installed -- at a price of around $80,000 -- have liked them this
year.

"Guys that bought them really like them. Installation
is simple: They bolt on to the existing planetaries," Greiner says.

But, there are also cons. The price tag scares away some
interested farmers, and even though overall compaction isn't as big an issue
with tracks, the narrower footprint can create more flash compaction, Greiner
says.

And, "tracks still cut a rut. But, it's maybe 1/3 of a
wheel tractor would with duals on it," he adds.

Another option to help prevent compaction and keep traction
in muddy fields is floater tires. Mainly because of the cost -- which is
usually around 1/4 of what it is to install tracks, Greiner says -- more
farmers are going this route. They keep more rubber in contact with the ground,
generating more torque without the compaction.

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