Extension Ag Update
January/February 2003
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New Porthole Device Eases Inspection and Cleaning of Combines

Jerry Longren, Jerry.Longren@ks.usda.gov, Alan Shadow, Alan.Shadow@ks.usda.gov, Plant Materials Center (PMC). Manhattan, Kansas

We all know that keeping equipment clean can greatly increase its lifespan, and this is especially true for the complicated machine known as the combine. With thousands of moving parts, combines create lots of areas for seed and crop residue to lodge and eventually choke the system. And getting to these areas through the provided access panels is often difficult and time consuming.  Adding to this gunk-filled problem is a mess called crop residue.  Crop residue contains moisture and, if left in a combine, this moisture leads to corrosion. This corrosion can attract rodents that cause a variety of problems from disease to chewed-hydraulic hoses and frayed-electrical wiring.

"Cleaning combines is important for those interested in harvesting a variety of crops," said Jerry Longren, a biological science technician at the Manhattan, Kansas, Plant Materials Center (PMC). "To aid in the cleaning of the combines at the PMC, I developed the 'porthole' to provide access into hard to reach areas."   These 'hard to reach' areas may not be as important to a farmer who only harvests wheat or corn, but to those harvesting a variety of small grains, native grasses, or native forbs, it becomes especially important, simply because leftover crop residue contains a substantial amount of seed material.

"It is critical that this material be removed to avoid contamination between crops, and is imperative when harvesting foundation seed as well as seed increase, and for scientific yield studies," said Longren.   Many species of native plants mature at roughly the same time, creating a short window of opportunity for harvest. "These portholes can be placed strategically on the combine to aid in the inspection and cleaning, before and after harvest," said Alan Shadow, an agronomist at the Manhattan Kansas, PMC. “This increases efficiency by decreasing the amount of down time for cleaning in between harvests, and allows for a more thorough cleaning, which decreases cross contamination between crops."   To learn more about the portholes, contact the scientists at the Plant Materials Center.