The importance of cleaning equipment between fields

Taking the time to clean equipment between fields is an important task producers should take time for during harvest season.

It is important for producers to take time to properly clean equipment before moving fields during harvest.(John Deere photo)

Harvest is undoubtedly a hectic and busy time of year for producers. While many producers opt for little sleep and hastily make their way from field to field, it is important that they take time to stop and clean their harvesting equipment.

“With harvest as pushed and as fast as it can be, I completely understand where it is going to be challenging to stop everything you’re doing and clean out the main areas of your equipment. But if producers take time to clean their equipment, they can prevent weed seed, debris, diseases and pathogens from spreading from one field to another,” said Angie Johnson, NDSU Extension agriculture and natural resources agent in Steele County.

This year, taking time to clean equipment between fields is even more important due to the surplus of weeds. By making the effort to clean out the major areas of your equipment, you are stopping the possible spreading of those stubborn and resistant weeds into other fields.

“With the heavy presence of weeds this year, there were so many weed escapes. In order to prevent more weeds from germinating and becoming good healthy plants to produce more weed seed the next growing season, it's really important to try and do the best you can to clean your combine out before you go to the next field,” Johnson said.

Johnson also suggests surveying your fields prior to harvest, and making a specific harvesting schedule for your acres. She recommends trying to leave your heavily weed infested fields last to harvest. This way there will be a much smaller chance of spreading weeds throughout your other fields.


In addition to lowering the chances of spreading a variety of things among your fields, there is also another important reason producers should take the time to properly clean out their harvesting equipment: machinery fires.

Due to the region’s dry weather this season, the chaff and debris accumulated while harvesting has been very dry. By letting the dry matter build up within the combine, there is a much higher chance of a fire starting within the equipment itself.

“Combine fires can easily happen due to buildup of chaff and debris from harvesting crops. That’s why taking the time to use a leaf blower or air compressor after completion of each field can be so crucial to help prevent a combine fire. Cleaning off the plant debris and dust allows for reduced chances of having material combust, since so many components of a combine can become very warm and hot, such as the engine compartment where chaff may have accumulated around bearings, belts and other moving parts,” Johnson said.

When cleaning the equipment itself, farmers can use a variety of things such as an air compressor, power washer, leaf blower and other various equipment. Visible debris, soil or weeds should be removed.

“Cleaning equipment does take time, but it will help ensure in the long run that your equipment and fields' productivity will remain enacted,” Johnson said.

Emily grew up on a small grains and goat farm in southern Ohio. After graduating from The Ohio State University, she moved to Fargo, North Dakota to pursue a career in ag journalism with Agweek. She enjoys reporting on livestock and local agricultural businesses.
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