A grain cart is a great tool for adding efficiency to harvest. A cart keeps a combine moving while spending more time harvesting and less time driving to and from trucks waiting at the edge of a field. Combines are expensive to operate so the less hours a farmer can put on his combine the better. When our dealer works out the value of a combine for trade value the salesman figures the machine depreciated at about $200 per engine hour! Got to keep that thing doing what it was built for!
So grain carts are great, and they are pretty simple. Heading into the 2014 harvest we chose to give some love to our cart with a few easy to install improvements that will help both whoever is running the cart as well as the combine operator (which 99% of the time is me).
Rear Facing Camera
Our first improvement is one we had been talking about for a couple of years, but just never got around to doing anything about. See, our grain cart is pretty much as wide as the county roads we travel on from one field to the next. The only way to know if traffic is piling up behind you is to do a little swerve and look in the tractor mirror at just the right moment to see the road behind the cart. Not exactly the safest manuever in the world. Some might say, “Who cares if there is traffic backed up? You’ve got a huge tractor and grain cart. You own the road.”
Alright, but let’s think about safety. Cars are not only behind us. There’s also oncoming traffic to deal with, and that’s where things can get dicey. Because the cart is so large the cars behind the grain cart can’t see past it. When we pull to the side to let oncoming traffic pass a car behind the cart might think we are letting it go around when in reality there is another vehicle headed its way. With the rear camera we’ll know if there is traffic behind us at any time, and we’ll know if we need to remain pulled over to the side of the road after oncoming traffic passes in order to let vehicles behind come around. With large and long equipment the driver often has to lay over to the opposite side of the road to make a turn. People will unexpectedly pass on the right when we do this. It’s happened to me several times. We are laying over to make turns while avoiding stop signs, fence posts, mail boxes, etc. And we also now have the benefit of added safety and vision in the field and around the barn lot.
The installation of the rear camera was very straightforward so we figured we might as well add a second camera to assist in the unloading process. Carts dump grain fast. From the combine I can easily see the inside of a trailer while I’m loading. Tractors on the other hand don’t sit quite as high as the combine meaning fast filling grain can be a pain not to spill from time to time. The view gets worse if the road is a bit higher than the field, and sometimes we have to load on the side of the trailer where the rolled up tarp sits, further limiting the view. So for 2014 we’ll now have a camera on the grain cart’s auger to provide an alternate view of our semi trailers. I think this will be especially helpful for Grandpa as he complains of not being able to turn his head as well as he used to. He’s only 87 you know. This might even lead to installing an auger cam on the combine (which already has a rear camera) so I can see in the grain cart!
Remote Grain Cart Scale Display
This is an improvement I know I’ll personally use a lot. Modern combines have yield monitors that track and map yield data as grain passes through the machine. Yield monitors need to be calibrated, and I like to calibrate often. Many times I’ll calibrate when I know I’m going to be waiting on trucks to return to the field, and no one is around to drive the cart. The past few years I’ve been able to get the combine to read within 1% of our actual harvest. Calibrating means harvesting a sample of grain and comparing the harvested weight displayed on the yield monitor and comparing it to either a scale ticket from a grain elevator or the built-in scale on the grain cart.
Until now calibrating when no one is around meant climbing out of the combine to check or tare the weight displayed in the cab of the grain cart tractor, getting back in the combine to harvest the sample, checking the yield monitor weight, going to the tractor again to check the new weight, and getting back in the combine to make any adjustments to the calibration factor. All that climbing in and out of equipment and walking takes several minutes that I could be using to get the cart full for the next truck that comes back.
So now we have this!
This big LED readout will be easily read by whoever is in the combine. It simply plugs into the in-cab display and shows whatever weight is on the screen at the time. Now I’ll be able to read the weight of the cart from my seat in the combine. This remote display was a bit pricey at about $800, but it is a welcome addition. And welcome not only for the reasons I already mentioned, but because we really need to keep track of our calibrations with an official log now that we are using John Deere automated crop insurance. The process of submitting our planted acres has been greatly improved and sped up so spending a few extra seconds filling out a log book each time I calibrate is no problem.
We are looking forward to putting all the improvements to work in the very near future! What do you think of our choices? Leave a comment below.