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Timely Applications

March 10, 2012
By: Darrell Smith, Farm Journal Conservation and Machinery Editor
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This track-mounted applicator helps ensure the timely application of lime and fertilizer for Claerhout Farms, in Princeton, Kan. A camera inside the hopper lets the operator know when lime or fertilizer is running low.  

Tracked lime rig and nurse trailer assure applications are made, even if nature isn’t cooperating

I Built the BestTimely applications of lime and fertilizer are essential for high yield. Dave Richardson and his employers at Claerhout Farms, Princeton, Kan., understood that. But Mother Nature didn’t seem to—not when she kept sending rain at the wrong time.

"East central Kansas is either too wet or dry," Richardson jokes. "It’s just right for about 45 minutes."

So Richardson and fellow employee Matt Cochran fought back by building a track-mounted applicator that can run in wetter soil conditions and minimize soil compaction—"the most flotation for the least compaction," Richardson summarizes.

The applicator won the fertilizer handling category of Farm Journal’s "I Built the Best" contest.

"Sometimes you just have to operate when soil is less than ideal," Richardson says. "We already run tracks on our combine and all our tractors because we are concerned about compaction."

The farm purchased a Stahly New Leader spreader, which can hold 13 tons of lime or 10½ tons of dry fertilizer. Richardson and Cochran mounted it on a Caterpillar VFS50 undercarriage with rubber tracks. They had already used the tracked undercarriage to carry a grain cart during wet harvest seasons.

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To get the right height for the spinner, Matt Cochran and Dave Richardson set the hopper on a frame made from 20" I-beams.

"The trick was to get the center of gravity and spinner height correct," Richardson says. "We couldn’t just set the box on the undercarriage. So we built a frame out of 20" I-beams for it to sit on."

The I-beams had been salvaged from an old bridge. They were just wide enough to provide the height Richardson and Cochran were looking for.

Hydraulics. The tractor that pulls the spreader, a John Deere 8320RT, had sufficient hydraulic

capacity to power the spreader (which on a truck would run off a PTO pump). "The original set of ¾" hoses off the tractor didn’t provide enough oil," Richardson says. "But adding a second set of hoses gave us plenty of oil flow."

Richardson and Cochran finished off the rig by installing a camera inside the hopper to let them know when it’s running low on lime or fertilizer. They mounted a second camera on the rear to monitor the road behind them during travel between fields. "You can never have enough eyes," Richardson says.

They added a roll-over tarp to protect the spreader’s contents. "And we put a hitch on the back to tow a belt conveyor, for filling with fertilizer," Richardson says. For their fertilizer application, they tend the spreader with a tandem truck; they use a front-end loader to fill with lime.

The machine spreads lime about 60' and dry fertilizer about 80'. "We can spread 3 tons of lime at 10 mph pretty easy," Richardson says. "In fact, we spend more time loading than applying. To broadcast fertilizer, we run 12 to 15 mph.

"Now we can apply lime and fertilizer when we need to," he concludes. "We will be able to lime more regularly, now that we have this rig."

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - March 2012
RELATED TOPICS: Machinery, I Built the Best

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