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Published October 03, 2011, 07:43 PM

ND sunflower grower designs, builds ‘chimney’

Chester Schantz was so exasperated with combine fires during sunflower harvest that he considered getting out of the crop — a big step for a farmer who grows only sunflowers and wheat.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Chester Schantz was so exasperated with combine fires during sunflower harvest that he considered getting out of the crop — a big step for a farmer who grows only sunflowers and wheat.

His problem? Sunflower dust got near the combine engine, and sparks from the manifold sometimes led to fire. Even stopping regularly to blow the dust off his combine didn’t stop the fires.

But the Hebron, N.D., producer found a solution. A few years back, he designed and built a “chimney” that he attached to the combine’s air intake device.

“You’ve just got to keep clean air going through the radiator,” he tells Agweek.

Problem solved. Schantz says he hasn’t had a fire after a chimney, made from plywood at a cost of about $60 and held together with screws, was installed on his combines. He built the chimney in own farm shop.

Each chimney, once installed, rises about 16 feet above the ground. That’s just low enough to fit under overhead power lines and inside most machine shop overhead doors, he says.

Every combine model is a little different, so the height of a chimney itself varies by combine. Whatever its height, it draws in clean air at the top.

Top area for sunflowers

Schantz and his invention were profiled in an article in the August/September issue of the National Sunflower Association’s Sunflower Magazine.

The association is based in Mandan, N.D. Both Mandan and Hebron, Schantz’s home town, are in North Dakota’s Morton County.

Last year, Morton County ranked fourth in North Dakota in oil sunflower production. The state leads the nation in sunflower production.

Schantz, 64, tells Agweek that he’s farmed for 40 years in southwestern North Dakota. The traditionally dry area usually provides him with few good alternatives to sunflowers.

Some farmers in his area have turned to corn in recent years, which have been relatively wet, but there’s no guarantee that Morton County will continue to receive enough moisture to grow corn, he says.

Last year, Morton County farmers planted 183,000 acres of spring wheat, followed by corn (35,300 acres) and oil sunflowers (35,000 acres), according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Willing to share knowledge

Schantz says he’s happy to talk with farmers who want to learn more about building a combine chimney of their own.

He’s already received a number of inquiries about the chimney after the article in Sunflower Magazine came out.

Many sunflower fields were planted later than normal this spring, so they’ll be harvested later than usual, too. That means farmers still have time to get their own combine chimney before sunflower harvest,

Some farmers who have seen the chimney on his combines are skeptical that it does any good, Schantz says.

“All I can say is, it really works,” he says.

The National Sunflower Association’s Sunflower magazine’s August/September issue has several articles on combine fires.

Information: www.sunflowernsa.com. Click on “Sunflower Magazine” in the upper left corner.

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