Combine-Sprayer Offers Flexibility, Capacity, Speed
Most North Dakota farm operators turn the combine cab into their “home away from home” during the late summer and fall while harvesting their small grain and row crops.
But unlike other producers, Monty Schaefer spends far more hours inside a combine cab during the spring and early summer months. That’s partly because his employees do most of the harvesting — but also because he has, for the past two seasons, utilized a converted 1460 International combine to apply herbicides across his central North Dakota wheat, sunflower and pinto bean acreage.
Schaefer’s combine conversion provides an impressive combination of spraying speed and flexibility. His unusual sprayer sports three different boom systems (for broadcasting, banding and spot-spraying); a water carrying capacity of 1,300 gallons; and the ground-speed and boom-length capability to cover more than 80 acres per hour (with hopes of increasing that to 100).
While Schaefer’s combine-sprayer became a reality inside his farm shop during the winter of 1995/96, he’d been mulling his sprayer wish list for a couple years prior to then. “We wanted a high-capacity sprayer that could haul enough water for some of the chemicals requiring a fair amount of gallonage,” recounts the Carrington producer. “Also, I’d always wanted something with two booms so we could spot-spray wild oat or thistle patches while spraying broadleaves.
“I wanted to build a sprayer that could do all that, so I basically was looking for a power unit with the cab, the frame and a hydrostat drive.” What implement had those features? A combine, Schaefer realized. Plus, a combine would have enough cavity space for mounting tanks once the rotor, sieves and remaining threshing mechanism were removed.
“Then, of course, the feeder house works well for mounting the spray boom on the front,” Schaefer adds. (While he had some initial concerns about spray mist drifting toward the combine cab with a front-mounted boom, that has not occurred. The cab is equipped with a charcoal filtration system nonetheless.) Along with his 90-foot Marflex broadcast boom, he has a separate 18-row banding boom carrying Red Ball spray hoods. A Jeffers Quick-Hitch on the feeder house allows him to drop off the larger boom and easily hook on the 45-foot bander, or vice versa.
The combine-sprayer has three separate spraying systems, each with its own tank and pump, so Schaefer has the ability to carry out up to three spraying operations in a single field pass. “The big broadcast boom has just two sets of nozzles, so I use two booms on that; but my banding sprayer has three nozzle sets, so it gives me even more flexibility,” he explains. “I can put one broadleaf chemical on the bean plants; another one between the rows; and a third chemical up front for spraying grasses.”
The largest tank — 710 gallons — is located in the combine’s hopper area. There’s a 400-gallon tank back in the sieve area; then a 200-gallon tank beneath the cab. Each has its own pump and regulating valves and is ground-speed regulated via a Raven 750 monitor system.
To allow travel in between rows, at higher speeds and with greater ground clearance, Schaefer replaced the front combine tires with 12.9x46 sized ones. He had to offset the rims a few inches, resulting in a 120-inch axle spacing (for straddling four 30-inch rows).
The rear axle was swapped out from a 1480 International, since it stretches out as wide as the front axle. It’s a little heavier, too, “because with the 400-gallon tank in the back, I was a little concerned about getting too much weight on that axle,” Schaefer relates.
Schaefer says he’s been extremely pleased with the performance of his versatile sprayer — and its surprisingly smooth ride when either full or empty. “The only problem I have is that my oil gets hot because I’m driving faster in the field than if it was used as a combine,” he says. Schaefer’s maximum spraying speed has been around nine miles per hour, but he would like to hike that to 11. “I think it’s just a matter of having some more coolers and more oil reservoir capa-city,” he observes.
Since he has tramlines in his wheat, Schaefer may install extra lighting on the combine-sprayer this year to allow night spraying. Down the road, he’s also considering the addition of an air-assisted boom for late-season fungicide applications in the wheat and beans.
All in all, Monty Schaefer views his combine-turned-sprayer as an excellent investment of time and dollars. “It’s taken a couple years to get all the major bugs worked out, and we’re always fine-tuning it,” he says. “But we’re very happy with it. We’ll keep it going for a long time.” — Don Lilleboe
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