Weed control isn’t normally a priority during harvest, but combines are the ideal vehicle to spread weed seeds across a field or carry them to the next. Herbicide-resistant weeds are an ever-growing issue, and prevention of the spread of those plants is a year-around duty.
Trip Downing, a farm-equipment sales representative from Rochelle, Illinois, says that this is nothing new to farmers.
“Farmers know how to clean their combines, but it’s an important reminder that when dealing with weed seeds this should be done on a per-field basis,” he says. “It may seem like common knowledge, but when a combine harvests soybeans, it takes the entire plant – soybean and weed – through the machine, which is different from corn where it mainly takes the ears.”
Downing offered several tips on to how to quickly clean combines before leaving the field, “Combines are large machines, and herbicide-resistant-weed seeds can hide in numerous places, but these tips are a starting point to cleaning for weed seeds.”
1. Use air to your advantage. Air is the best way to get seeds out of the equipment, and air compressors are commonly found on farm trucks during harvest.
2. Check your rock trap. Weed seed and debris may be caught in the rock trap of the combine. “For a quick fix, drop the rock trap and blow it out with an air compressor between fields,” says Downing.
3. Open trapdoors. Open the trapdoors to clean the grain auger and tailings processor and unload the auger sump to clean with an air compressor. “Use caution when opening the unload auger sump trapdoor,” warns Downing. “There may be a good amount of grain left in there.” He acknowledges that if your grain samples contain weed seed, it may be advantageous to empty the unload auger sump in the field.
4. Visual inspection and avoidance. Two of the simplest ways to avoid spreading weed seeds is to avoid harvesting heavy weed beds in the field and to visually inspect your combine for any plants that may be coming along for the ride to the next field.
5. Thoroughly clean your combine, when possible. Cleaning a combine thoroughly is a four- to five-hour process, but with weed pressure increasing, it’s a rainy day project worth considering.
Courtesy ILSoy Advisor