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New, old tools help farmers get through one tough harvest

Agriculture.com Staff 11/24/2009 @ 9:04am

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.

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.

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