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
Timely 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.
|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."
One-man spray crew. When it’s time to spray, Richardson turns into a one-man crew, thanks to a fully equipped nurse trailer and an ATV transport system that lets him zip from field to farmstead. The trailer won the chemical handling category of the "I Built the Best" contest.
|The nurse trailer built by Dave Richardson carries three 2,000-gal. tanks, three mini-bulk chemical shuttles, a pallet of chemicals, a cage for trash and an ATV. Plumbing all of the tank hoses under the trailer keeps the deck uncluttered.
If you think hauling an ATV on Richardson’s 45' nurse trailer makes for cramped quarters, think again. There’s still room for three 2,000-gal. tanks, a cage for trash, three mini-bulk chemical shuttles and a pallet of chemicals. There’s also an inductor, accessible from ground level.
One reason the trailer deck is uncluttered is that Richardson plumbed all the hoses from the big tanks underneath the floor of the trailer.
The trailer’s user-friendly features evolved over five years. Now, Richardson says, "I wouldn’t change a thing."
Two rear shuttles gravity-feed into the rear-mounted inductor. "That’s faster and simpler than using pumps," Richardson says. A transfer pump serves the front shuttle, which contains thicker, slower-flowing products.
The inductor is mounted on a pivoting platform, so Richardson can level it to measure chemicals even when the trailer is parked on sloping ground.
"I pour 5 gal. of water into it and tilt it until it reads 5 gal., and then I know it’s level," he says.
A hose and valve at the pump can be used to rinse chemical jugs and the inductor. A 40' hose can be attached to rinse off the sprayer. Water is screened before it reaches the pump, and twice more before it reaches the sprayer.
Mesh racks underneath the trailer deck, built by Richardson, carry a garden hose, foamer, hand soap, his calibration jug and other small supplies. Doors are held shut by simple gravity latches. "With no pins or handles, they are easy to use with rubber gloves on," Richardson says.
Slide-out railings around the bed of the trailer double as ladders. Ramps for the ATV are stored under the bed.
The last change Richardson made was to route the exhaust on the transfer pump engine underneath the bed of the trailer, through a car muffler. "Now it’s quiet, and there’s no exhaust blowing in your face when you stand by the pump and inductor," he says.
Richardson says that he could speed filling by replacing the trailer’s 2" transfer pump with a 3" model, to match the 3" hoses from the water tanks. "But this pump already fills my sprayer in 15 minutes, including chemicals," he says.
After parking the nurse trailer at the field, Richardson dashes home on the ATV to get his sprayer. He slings the ATV underneath the sprayer frame and hauls it back to the truck.
To transport the ATV on the sprayer, Richardson made a mounting bracket for a winch and pulley, attaching it using bolt holes that were already in the frame. He uses the winch to lift the front of the ATV off the ground.
To lift the rear of the ATV, Richardson hooks a chain to the rear rack and runs it through part of the sprayer’s lift arm frame. Raising the boom lifts the ATV off the ground.
- March 2012