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how can i clean weed seeds out of a combine

A true clean-out

A true clean-out requires about six hours to remove as much biomaterial as possible. A clean-out process may be necessary to prevent the spread of weeds to new fields. A first line-of-defense is to avoid harvesting fields with an offending weed species, such as burcucumber or Palmer amaranth, until the end of the season to avoid introducing seeds of new weeds to other fields.

Steps for limited cleaning

While a thorough, top-to-bottom cleaning of the combine is best to avoid the spread of weed seeds between fields, spending 15 to 30 minutes cleaning the combine before moving it out of the field will still remove some biomaterial. First, allow the combine to do some “self-cleaning” by opening doors at the bottom of the clean grain elevator and unloading auger sump on the clean grain tank. Remove the gathering head if time allows. Then, start up the combine; operating the thresher and separator at full speed. Have the cleaning shoe sieves fully open and the fan adjusted to maximum speed. Make sure no one is within 100 ft of the area to avoid being hit by flying debris. Use the rest of the time available to clean the outside surfaces of the combine, the gathering head, and inside the rock trap. Head removal allows cleaning of the feederhouse and easier access to the rock trap. Remember to close elevator and sump doors when finished.

Removing larger weed seeds (e.g. burr cucumber) will probably be more effective than smaller weed seeds (e.g. Palmer amaranth) with this type of limited cleaning. However, any effort is likely more effective than none.

Removing biomaterial to avoid moving weed seeds between fields can be a daunting task. Typically, combines hold 125-150 lbs of grain and biomaterial after the unloading auger has operated “empty” for one minute.

Photo: trail of weeds from seed shot out back of combine by Bob Hartzler.

While this sort of painstaking cleanup may seem tedious, it’s really time well spent. Keeping your machine clean and well maintained prolongs its life and improves its efficiency.

At the end of the harvest, it’s important to give your combine a good cleaning to prevent having weed seed and vermin over winter inside your machinery. Before you put your combine away for the winter months, you must perform a complete cleaning that will give you the opportunity to locate any maintenance needs and clean out potential food and bedding sources for vermin. Read on to learn more on how to clean out a combine.

Steps To Complete Combine Cleanup

Be aware that you should not only look for stray seeds and grain inside the combine, there may also be seeds lodged in crevices on the outside of the machine, so you’ll want to perform a thorough cleaning inside and out.

Clean the chassis, paying close attention to:

One vermin food source is weed seed, along with any leftovers from your harvested crop. When you give your combine a good cleaning before winter comes, you can remove this stray seed and prevent spreading it over your field when you go back to work in the springtime.

#8. Clean the chopper by removing the plant material from the rotor.

#10. Clean the elevators by opening the lower doors and shaking the conveyor chains to dislodge any material.

#2. Thoroughly vacuum the grain tank from top to bottom, including all ledges, steps, lights, sensors, wiring, and around the window to the cab.

11 Essential Tasks

#4. Remove the head, lower the feederhouse to the ground, and use compressed air to blow out the interior.

#1. Prior to leaving the crop field, perform a self-cleaning process with the combine:

#3. Clean the unloading auger by packing 1.5 cubic feet of pine wood chips (0.5 inches long) into the sump. Power-up the unloading auger to scour and remove biomaterial. Then vacuum remaining wood chips and biomaterial from the sump, cross augers, and the exit end of the unloading auger.

Depending upon which type of combine header you have — corn head or a grain platform head — the end-of-season clean-out is crucial to help prevent the spread of potential herbicide-resistant weed seeds and soil pathogens.